Microsoft Research is working on a new technology called MobileFusion that will allow users to create high-quality 3D images in real time using a regular smartphone.
By slowly panning a smartphone camera around an object, MobileFusion can create a 3D image good enough for printing. The technology requires no other hardware to function and can even operate offline. The project is being developed for the Android, iOS and Windows Phone platforms.
"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," said Shahram Izadi, a principal researcher on the project.
MobileFusion works by taking several pictures of an object then using an algorithm to combine them into a single 3D image - essentially turning a smartphone into a 3D scanner. Researchers say the idea is for people to use their smartphones on trips - such as to a museum or abroad - to make 3D scans of mementos which they can then turn into 3D printed objects when they get home.
Microsoft isn't the first company that has worked on combining 3D scanning technology with phone cameras - although MobileFusion is more advanced than the few available apps which perform a similar function. In the world of consumer 3D scanners, the 3D Capture Stage for HP's Sprout PC is regarded as one of the better options, and has a scanning quality that Microsoft will likely be hoping its project can replicate on smartphones.
As of right now, there are no solid plans to release the technology to the public, but researchers say that is the project's ultimate goal. MobileFusion will be displayed at the International Symposium on Mixed and Augmented Reality in early October.
To see MobileFusion in action, check out the video below.