If you’ve been paying attention to the news lately, you’ve no doubt heard of virtual reality goggles that claim they will change how we interact in the world. This vision, featured in countless sci-fi movies and tv shows, finally seems within our grasp. From the Oculus Rift, to the Samsung Galaxy VR, to the HTC Vive, the virtual reality market is exploding this year, with the promise of AR (augmented reality) looming on the horizon.
With all of this growth in the VR market, there is sure to be a massive rise in the demand for virtual reality content as well. After all, it’s hard to enjoy a $600+ pair of virtual reality goggles if there are few games to play or movies to watch.
Traditionally, 3D modelers were hired for their expertise in software packages such as Maya and AutoCAD to create sophisticated and detailed models that could be used for virtual content. Not only was this expensive, it was incredibly time consuming. While well worth it for a movie or video game with a multimillion dollar budget, the revolution in 3D content consumption is creating another, more subtle revolution.
The way 3D content is being created today is rapidly changing. Devices such as the Matterport camera (currently priced at $4,500) and the Occipital Structure Sensor ($350+) currently allow users to capture 3D representations of objects and spaces for uses as varied as real estate to custom orthodontics. While very sophisticated, these devices are only affordable to a niche market of users with deep pockets and particular use cases in mind. The average person can’t afford to create 3D content yet. Or can they?
To counter these intricate pieces of hardware, a small group of companies are using a software technique known as “photogrammetry” to approximate the same result, using only photos; no advanced hardware required. Software, such as Agisoft PhotoScan and the cloud based alternatives 123D Catch and Autodesk Memento, allow users to take a series of photos and transform them into 3D models of similar quality as those generated by specialized hardware.
This image above is of a 3d model house generated using Autodesk Memento and a series of images.
These advanced software packages already yield impressive results and will only increase in power and sophistication as time progresses. Coupled with the rapid advancement of the quality of cameras present in our everyday smartphone, this is already allowing users to create 3D content in much less time than ever before, and with little to no skill required.
Image source: re:publica