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New 3D scanning technology could capture data from a video in real time

Posted December 1, 2019

Our entire world is 3D, while our cameras generally capture image in 2D. This is mostly not a problem, but it does make data analysis more challenging and analysing scans of 3-dimensional objects requires more time and effort. But now researchers from the University of Waterloo have employed every camera pixel to capture full-field 3D surface-shape data in real time.

3D scanning technology could be used to research facial expressions, improving surgery accuracy, studying landslides and other phenomena. Image credit: University of Waterloo

You may think that this is not that important. However, the way that our computers get to know the visual properties of the world is through cameras. It is not just image-capture device. It is also a complex input media, which is useful in a variety of applications. Scientists say that a reliable and easy 3D scanning technology would be useful everywhere from surgeries to landslides research.

Scientists created some novel algorithms to compute surface shape at the same frame rate as video. This allows capturing 3-dimensional high-resolution data with a measurement accuracy of approximately 0.1 mm. Better still, this technology works regardless of whether the objects in front of the camera are moving or are completely static. This means that scientists are able to analyse objects using this technology that are moving, crumbling or completely rigid.

For example, a handheld 3D camera connected to this novel software could aid surgeries. The algorithm could measure changes in tissue dimensions in real time, providing data that could be analysed immediately or later after the surgery. This could also be useful in novel surgery methods, such as using robots. Jonathan Kofman, one of the creators of this technology, said: “The surgeon operating a robotic system may now see an overlay of the 3D shape of tissues. They can rotate the shape and look at it from different viewpoints”.

The same exact technology could be used in other areas as well. For example, it could be used to research facial expressions and emotions in general. Movements in facial tissues could be tracked and measured in real time. It could also be used in tracking landslides. In that application a 3D camera (scanner) could be put on a tripod and left alone for some time. Then an algorithm would analyse those high-resolution images, measuring tiny movements.

3D scanning technology is incredibly useful and it is advancing rapidly. Hopefully, in the near future it will become cheaper as well and will spread across hospitals and research centres across the world.


Source: University of Waterloo

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