Microsoft Research Lab rolled out its latest project: one that makes your phone do more than just capture 2D images. The new project called Mobile Fusion converts a phone’s rear camera into a 3D scanner that automatically creates 3D models which are supposed to be suitable for printing.

Microsoft Can Turn Your Phone's Camera Into 3D Scanner

Microsoft’s Mobile Fusion different from Google’s Tango

In a demo video, a researcher demonstrates how the iPhone 5S can be used to scan an object just by moving the phone around it. By tracking the object captured, the phone builds a model as the camera captures images from various angles. First, the RBG data is captured by the app, followed by stereo depth measurements. All the calculations are done by the phone itself as Microsoft said it doesn’t need any additional hardware to convert any smartphone into a 3D scanner.

Google’s project Tango is quite similar to the project from Microsoft, but it needs additional hardware, including a motion tracking camera and a depth sensor for mapping the world. Additional sensors used by Tango could give better results, but Microsoft claims one camera is enough to come up with models for printing or use in augmented reality gaming.

Shahram Izadi, a principal researcher working on the project, said “This is really about the accessibility and ubiquity of 3D scanning,” adding, “The great starting point was to take a sensor that everyone has in their pocket, which is the camera you have on your mobile phone.”

Very useful for users

Researchers see this as a “useful tool” for those going on vacation or hiking where signals are weak or unavailable, as it doesn’t need an internet connection or any other hardware. According to Izadi, people will use this feature to share with their friends something they see on vacation, say the Eiffel Tower. It will also suit those who want to sell products online as it will be effective than posting a picture or a video.

Motionless people or static objects are the most suitable as the scanning takes some time. But once the scan is complete, it instantly condenses it into a 3D model. Currently, Microsoft doesn’t have any plans to release this feature, but eventually it will find its way out to the general public. Researchers are working on getting it running on iOS, Android and Windows Phones.