Blowing up across the 3D printing Internet last week was the following video, which demonstrated a software with the ability to convert 2D photographs into complete 3D models, possibly opening up a whole new method for creating 3D-printable objects:
Developed by researchers at Tel Aviv University, Tao Chen, Zhe Zhu, Ariel Shamir, Shi-Min Hu, and Daniel Cohen-Or, the software, called 3-Sweep, is meant to make 3D modeling accessible to anyone, regardless of skill level. By relying on the intuitive capacities of human perception in tandem with the algorithms of a computer program, users can identify objects and their relative depths, while the software detects edges and generates a texture map.
The software performs its operations in three steps. The first two are used to outline the contours of an object, while the last step is meant to determine its depth. The background is then separated from the object and filled in. A writer at Wired rightly drew analogies to the magic lasso and content-aware fill tools in Photoshop, saying that, “the software [snaps] intelligently to the object along the way, like a more sophisticated version of Photoshop’s magic lasso. The background of the image is filled in with something like Photoshop’s content-aware fill, allowing the object to be turned and repositioned anywhere in its environment.” The software will make its debut at SIGGRAPH Asia in November of this year, at which point, the accompanying paper and, if we’re lucky, the source code will be released to the public.
Until then, you can try futzing around with an online app from 3defy. Certainly, it lacks the power of the 3-sweep app, but it’s fun nonetheless. With 3defy, you can add a depth map to your photograph and create a sort of pop-up effect, rendering your favorite family photos into a topography of pores and blemishes. The software is relatively easy to use, though possibly not as simple as 3-sweep, with a “color matcher” that 3defy warns me “is for advanced users only”. As you can tell, I’m clearly an advanced user, as I’ve expertly created a 3D model of a photo of Danielle and I at our cat lady-themed party:
I can then export a printable file of my beautiful portrait or this stranger’s terrifying baby for $4.99:
Of course, 3defy doesn’t compare to the potential of 3-sweep and other services that offer similar 2D to 3D conversion. We’ll just have to wait with baited breath until 3-sweep is released to the public. If 3-sweep can become even more refined, maybe it can capture our less symmetrical human shapes and turn them into fully-interactive 3D models!
Hat tip to Nancy at Mixee Labs.