The just released Autodesk Photofly 2.0 is a new cloud application with great potential - not only for CAD. It takes a series of photos and automatically generates a 3D model from these photos. Although the Photofly version 1.x is already available for about a year, only since the new version 2.0 it has features that make it easy to use and generates directly usable CAD models.
The first step of the process - preparing the photographed scene in the "Autodesk Scene Photo Editor" - is very easy to use. Simply select a folder containing all the photographs shooted "around" the scene and the application automatically prepares the images and send them over the Internet to the Autodesk cloud server. The photos will be analyzed there, and a 3D mesh model is generated with the given accuracy (fineness of the mesh). The model has also textures - derived from the photos - applied on the mesh. The result is a visually realistic 3D model of a building, statue, face, art object, a room interior or a product. Because the model generation process may take from minutes to tens of minutes, you can temporarily leave the application and wait for a notification e-mail.
For the photo shooting of a scene there are a few simple rules. They are summarized in this instructional video:
To verify the simplicity and practical use of the application, we had a schoolchild photographed (with a standard Canon compact camera) the famous Samson fountain on the main square in the oldtown of České Budějovice:
The resulting 120 photo files (JPG, 4320x3240 resolution) were sent using the scene editor to the Photofly cloud server and within about 10 minutes, the 3D model appeared in the editor. The quality of the model was not 100%, but the results were still interesting. All photographs were recognized and "stitched" automatically. For the first attempt with Photofly we have maybe taken a too much complicated model, and in addition the photo-shooting was complicated due to a number of tourist around the fountain, due to the splashing fountain water and the inability to photograph the fountain from above. Photofly tries to recognize marks and edges in the scene and stitches the individual photos into a 3D form. The missing segments or unidentified common marks (on pictures from multiple directions) appear as "holes" in the 3D model. For the fountain it was mainly a problem of the view "from above". But the missing leg on one of the Atlases is the reality ...
Here is the scene of Samson in the environment of the Scene Photo Editor:
The resulting 3D model can be stored to the OBJ format (3D mesh, e.g. for 3ds Max or 123D), IPM (Mobile 3D viewer), LAS (point cloud), RZI, or DWG (only control objects).
It is also possible to create and publish an animation (fly-by). Here are some export files of this model and of other tested scenes/models. The Samson model looks like this in the mobile browser on Apple iPad:
Autodesk Photofly can be downloaded and used for free (a technology preview). It is available on Autodesk Labs.
Update: The application is now called Autodesk 123D Catch and Autodesk ReCap Photo.