Most digital objects are designed from the ground up in a modeling program, but 3D scanning is increasingly viable. In fact, you might have all the technology you need riding around in your pocket. A new smartphone app from Epic Games called RealityScan could eventually digitize your real life stuff, generating high-quality digital objects. You can even give it a shot today, if you manage to make it into the very limited early beta.
So, imagine you want to create a 3D model of a chair. You could build it from scratch in a 3D modeling application like Maya or Autodesk, but you can’t just dive in and create with these programs — they’re powerful and therefore pretty complicated. There are simpler options, but they come with fewer options and yield less impressive results. At the end of the day, you’re trying to imitate reality, and reality is already “done.” RealityScan lets you create a high-quality 3D model simply by pointing your smartphone at a real object.
According to Epic, RealityScan was created in collaboration with 3D scanning firms Capturing Reality and Quixel. Traditional 3D scanning requires expensive laser scanning and other technologies, but the 3D sensing capabilities of today’s smartphones are surprisingly powerful. Apple has been working on its ARkit platform for almost five years, and Google’s ARCore came about a year later. Both systems work by tracking the phone’s orientation and position in space via the plethora of sensors inside and then fusing that with camera data, light estimation, and AI technologies that might as well be magic. The primary use for this technology is augmented reality, like painting game elements in the real world or overlaying virtual rulers on nearby objects to take measurements.
In the demo video, Epic shows how a chair can be digitized in just a few minutes. You will need to take at least 20 shots of an object with RealityScan, but the more you have, the better the model quality. The app doesn’t do all the heavy lifting on your device, though. It exports data to the cloud for processing, returning a full 3D model that you can edit, resize, and share. RealityScan plugs into Sketchfab, a popular platform for sharing and selling 3D content. Naturally, these models can drop right into the company’s Unreal Engine, too.
Before you get too excited about the prospect of installing a neat 3D scanning app, know that this initial release is iOS-only. An Android version is coming later this year, but you should be used to this kind of disappointment. If you do have an iPhone, that’s still no guarantee of access. Epic has limited its beta to just 10,000 participants, and it’s first come, first served. You can try to join via TestFlight, but you won’t have to wait too long if all the spots fill up. The wider iOS release will come this spring. The Android faithful will have to wait until later this year to get their own version of RealityScan.
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