Researchers enable 3D scanning using off-the-shelf cameras

Scientists from the Korean Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) and the University of Zaragoza, Spain have shown a method to capture the real world in 3D using off-the-shelf digital and phone cameras.

The findings were presented at the SIGGRAPH Asia 2018, a conference and exhibition on computer graphics and interactive technologies.

Rendering the world in 3D 

3D scanning has been an influential aspect of 3D printing technology and has been successfully used in medicine and dentistry. Furthermore, its impact on heritage restoration has also been very important. However, the technology for translating the real world into 3D remains expensive and a laborious task performed by the specialists in the field.

The authors of the recent paper have overcome these limitations by capturing the world in 3D using inexpensive equipment.

Professor Min H. Kim, the co-author of the paper and an associate professor of computer science at the KAIST, explained, “To faithfully reproduce a real-world object in the VR/AR environment, we need to replicate the 3D geometry and appearance of the object. Traditionally, this has been either done manually by 3D artists, which is a labor-intensive task, or by using specialized, expensive hardware.”

“Our method is straightforward, cheaper and efficient, and reproduces realistic 3D objects by just taking photos from a single camera with a built-in flash.”

Some of the objects rendered into 3D using the methodology presented in the paper. Image via ACM Transactions on Graphics
Some of the objects rendered into 3D using the methodology presented in the paper. Image via ACM Transactions on Graphics

Bringing 3D scanning to the masses

There have been previous studies which have shown various methods to turn real-world objects into 3D, such as Practical modeling and acquisition of layered facial reflectance and Two-shot SVBRDF capture for stationary materials.

However, as the authors from KAIST and the University of Zaragoza claim, their work is the first one to show 3D rendering of real-world objects which does not require overly expensive specialist equipment and produces better results compared to the past studies.

For this study, the researchers designed an algorithm that rendered the 3D image possible. This algorithm was based on the spatially varying bidirectional reflectance distribution function (SVBRDF), a mathematical function often used in computer graphic algorithms. It defines the behavior of light as reflected on an opaque surface.

The ingenuity of the reconstruction algorithm ensured that the quality of the 3D object was not compromised using standard cameras. The equipment used in the study included the Nikon D7000 DSLR camera and a Nexus 5X phone camera.

The study concludes:

“with results that are comparable or many times superior to state-of-the-art methods forcapturing only reflectance or geometry; our geometric reconstructions are comparable to commercial 3D desktop scanning systems. We believe that our work offers an attractive solution, which can facilitate in-the-wild geometry and reflectance acquisition for a wider public.”

The work discussed in this article was published in a paper, titled, Practical SVBRDF Acquisition of 3D Objects with Unstructured Flash Photography, published in the ACM Transactions on Graphics. It was jointly authored by Giljoo Nam, Joo Ho Lee, Diego Gutierrez, and Min H. Kim.

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Featured image shows examples of 3D objects produced in the study. Image via ACM Transactions on Graphics