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MobileFusion by Microsoft Research. An app that can turn any smartphone into a 3D scanner!

We have all heard of window shopping; standing there dreaming over a new object to add to our lives, what if you could just scan it with your camera and print out a copy?

Microsoft Research have been working on a new app that may do just that; enabling you to scan in an object in realtime and then head off to the 3D printer to realise it. The app is called Mobilefusion, and it will give the user the ability to grab an object in realtime and produce a high quality 3D image on the device. It is currently working on Android smartphones and tablets, iOS devices and Windows Phones.

Microsoft says “The researchers then developed an algorithm that allowed the camera to act as a 3D scanner, using a technique of taking multiple images that is similar to how the human eye works.” The projects aim is to allow the user to be able to record 3D imagery as easily as they do with pictures and video.

For example, you are in London around Nelson’s Column and spot those big cuddly lions. You think they will make great bookends so quickly grab the 3D image of them ready to print off when you get home. This is what this app will enable you to do.

“What this system effectively allows us to do is to take something similar to a picture, but it’s a full 3D object,” said Peter Ondruska, a Ph.D. candidate at Oxford University who worked on this project during his internship at Microsoft Research.

The app does not require an internet connection nor any other hardware to take 3D images, and the scans taken with MobileFusion are high-quality enough that they can be used for augmented reality video games as well as 3D printing. The creation of the 3D model can be seen in the app in real-time, so that users can decide if the model meets their requirements.

If it’s not good enough, the user can simply try again to scan the 3D object until he or she is happy with the result.

Pushmeet Kohli and Shahram Izadi are the faces behind the project. They both worked on a very similar project called Kinect Fusion. This project allowed the users to build 3D models of their bodies, houses etc. Unlike MobileFusion, however, Kinect Fusion required the user to have a PC and other dedicated hardware around while capturing an object’s 3D image.

The Microsoft Research team will be displaying MobileFusion at the International Symposium on Mixed and Augmented Reality in early October. Their ultimate goal is to provide MobileFusion as a public smartphone app for the general public at some point in the future.

Unfortunately, at present, we shall just have to wait and see as they have no set date on when it will be complete.