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Marc Pollefeys and Colleagues Develope Software that Turns a Smartphone into a 3D Scanner


On December 5. 2013 scientists led by Marc Pollefeys, head of the Computer Vision and Geometry Group in the Institute of Visual Computing at ETH Zurich announced that they developed an app that turned an ordinary Android smartphone into a 3D scanner. Marc Pollefeys commented that two years ago software of this type would have been expected to run only on large computers. "That this works on a smartphone would have been unthinkable."

Rather than taking a regular photograph, a user moves the phone and its camera around the object being scanned, and after a few motions, a three dimensional model appears on the screen. As the user keeps moving the phone and its camera, additional images are recorded automatically, extending the wireframe of the virtual object. Because all calculations are programmed into the software, the user gets immediate feedback and can select additional viewpoints to cover missing parts of the rendering. The system utilizes the inertial sensors of the phone, extracting the camera views in real-time based on kinetic motion capture. The resulting 360 degree model can be used for visualization or augmented reality applications, or rapid prototyping with CNC (Computer Numerical Control) machines and 3D printers.

Because the app worked even in low light conditions, such as in museums and churches, it was suggested that a visitor in a museum could scan a sculpture and consider it later at home or at work.

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