Here's a neat new system for creating digital 3D models and textures from the real world using a simple flash camera (plus some neat software).

Creating 3D maps and worlds can be extremely labor intensive and time consuming. And ultimately the final result might not survive the close scrutiny of those expecting real-world emulations. A new technique developed by scientists at The University of Manchester's School of Computer Science and Dolby Canada, however, might make capturing depth and textures for 3D surfaces as simple as shooting two pictures with a digital camera--one with flash and one without. ...

First an image of a surface is captured without flash. Portions of the surface that are higher appear brighter, and portions that are deeper appear darker. The problem is that the different colors of a surface also reflect light differently, making it difficult to determine if the brightness difference is a function of depth or color. By taking a second photo with flash, however, the accurate colors of all visible portions of the surface can be captured. The two captured images essentially become a reflectance map (albedo) and a depth map (height field).

Pretty neat! Soon we'll have robots that roam the land, image everything, and build a stronger-better-faster-virtualer world for us all to enjoy in complete serenity.

(HT: NC.)

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