Ever wished you could take an object in a museum home with you instead of settling for some photos?
The design software company Autodesk will release free software next week that could turn those snapshots into your own personal replica from a 3-D printer. Called Photofly, the software extracts a detailed 3-D model from a collection of overlapping photos.
"We can automatically generate a 3-D mesh at extreme detail from a set of photos—we're talking the kind of density captured by a laser scanner," says Brian Mathews, who leads a group at the company known as Autodesk Labs. Unlike a laser scanner, though, the equipment needed to capture the 3-D rendering doesn't cost tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars. An overlapping set of around 40 photos is enough to capture a person's head and shoulders in detailed 3-D, he says.