Create better 3D models by waving your smartphone around

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Roberto Baldwin
April 2nd, 2015
In this article: 3dscanner, CarnegieMellon
Create better 3D models by waving your smartphone around

Sure your smartphone makes for a passable 3D scanner, but it still can't determine the size of an item. Fortunately, Carnegie Mellon researchers are able to discover the scale of an object using a smartphone's camera and its IMU (inertial measurement unit). They just have to make sure to move the phone slow enough that that there's no motion blur during capture. If the feature gets wide adoption, you may soon be able to go shopping for furniture without lugging a measure tape around town.

CMU Robotics Institute Associate Research Professor Simon Lucey told the Carnegie Mellon News that the gyroscope and accelerometer inside IMUs aren't very precise. But while they lack the precision usually associated with measuring devices like a ruler or scale, the "noisy" sensors are adequate enough to help them find the size and scale of an object. In fact, the researchers have been able to measure the distance between a person's pupils within half a millimeter. "We've been able to get accuracies with cheap sensors that we hadn't imagined," Lucey said.

The researchers have already created an eyewear augmented reality app that builds a 3D model of a person's face so they can try on virtual glasses. While the home improvement and furniture shopping implications are pretty apparent, custom tailoring services like MTailor could benefit from more precise measurement capabilities. The technology could also be applied to other devices with more powerful processors and higher frame rates like AR headsets and driverless vehicles to map out rooms and outdoor environments respectively.

With smartphones already being used for virtual reality headsets like the Galaxy Gear VR and developers building augmented reality apps to enhance our world, expect more features like this to trickle down onto the devices we already own.

[Image credit: ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images]

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