Scientists Work Out Way to Capture 3D Texture Info in a Flash

Click to viewSome scientists at University of Manchester in the UK and Dolby Canada in Vancouver have worked out a way to capture 3D info of complex-textured objects really simply with a camera flash. You should care about this because it's likely to make the textures applied to characters and objects in computer games way more realistic: normally texture capturing needs expensive devices like laser scanners.Instead this technique uses something a bit like high dynamic-range photography, with two photos taken of a real-life texture: one with flash, one without. After some nifty image processing later, working out where the light and shade come from on the object for each pixel in both the illuminated and unilluminated shots, and they reproduce 3D depth and color info for the texture. It covers the whole field of the frame, and since it's 3D it lets you change the angle of illumination and shadowing when the texture is re-rendered in 3D graphics. Though it's still a work in progress, it's pretty impressive, and apparently fooled a test group of viewers who couldn't distinguish images made with the flash technique from laser-scanned imagery. It was demoed at the SIGGRAPH conference in Los Angeles recently. [New Scientist]

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That's all there is? Shoot it twice, once with flash and once without? I'm sure there's some mathematical logic to extrapolating data between the two, but you'd think there was more to the magic.

Nevertheless, I'm pleased with the outcome and hope there will be a consumer product soon, too.