Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Autodesk Photofly creates 3D models from photos

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:

Photofly shooting

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).

We have tested many other models - e.g. a car, fire extinguisher, Merkur toy set, amphora or a wooden doggie toy. Some models were processed fast and smoothly, some models had problems with the 3D recognition (shiny surfaces, holes in the toy set).

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.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Autodesk 123D as a free 3D CAD converter

Autodesk has released a new software for do-it-yourself users and makers, "123D" (one-two-three-dee). It is a great tool to design 3D models and have them physically manufactured in many interesting ways. Not only through 3D printing.

123D is based on Autodesk Inventor Fusion and uses a similar user interface. Its native file format .123d is in fact just a 3D DWG format. One of the important functionality of 123D is its rather broad support of 3D CAD formats. With the help of this feature you can use 123D as a free CAD converter.

Autodesk 123D can read (import) files in the following formats: .123D, .DWG (3D), .STEP/.STP, .OBJ, .SKP (SketchUp), .123C. The imported 3D model can be then exported (written, converted) to one of the following formats: .SAT, .STL, .STEP/.STP, .DWG, .123D. These CAD conversions work quite reliably with an exception of .SKP - many .skp files I have tried failed with an abort of the 123D application. But 123D is still in beta so we can expect improvement in this area. So if you need a standalone converter of common CAD formats, you can use Autodesk 123D.

Download your free copy of Autodesk 123D at www.123dapp.com