Capture Reality with Project Photofly!
The Autodesk Labs was started as a way to show emerging technologies and get feedback on them to shape their future features and direction. Project Photofly is definitely one of those shining examples of cutting edge photogrammetrytechnology combined with cloud computing with many potential uses but we need your feedback on to help decide where to focus our investment in.
To hijack a phrase from a song “The Future is so bright with this technology, you need shades”. The geek mind can really race and go wild with all of the future possibilities.
Currently it is available in English only currently and relies on a web connection to process the photos using the cloud. This technology preview is for 32bit Windows but will run fine on 64bit. The technology under the hood of this technology preview has evolved with many of the Autodesk core technology and point cloud technology leaders showing a real promise in cloud computing and the automatic point cloud creation complete with point texture splats from a series of photos from normal consumer grade digital cameras.
Here is a simplified workflow without complex terms or deep diving into mathematical algorithms used to take photos and convert them to 3D points.
You take photos based on the Photo Shooting Guidelines then upload them to the cloud which will then process while you wait and send back a point cloud to the Photo Scene Editor (aka Photofly) You can even have it alert you by email when the file is completed if you don’t want to wait around while it process’ the points from the photos. You can even take a known dimension to calibrate the point cloud scene. Calibrated from a known point in the photos will allow you to measure other points in the 3d scene.
Here are two screen captures of early prototype Photofly and the 3D point cloud with splats from some photos I took in Tucson and Philadelphia.
Here is a scan of a small statue I purchased when in the Brazilian Amazon Jungle a few years back. I took just a couple close up photos, imported the photos to PhotoFly and was given the resulting 3D point cloud of the statue and then exported to AutoCAD as DWG giving me a series of points.
Yes, I did take a series of photos with the assistance of Scott Sheppard of Autodesk Labs. A 3D Hurley head in a point cloud was not the intended use for the technology but it was fun and reminded me of people photocopying their face when they first had access to a photocopier.
Capturing the reality as-built for various purposes (renovation, energy analysis, add-on design, etc.) is now becoming possible using your standard digital camera thanks to advanced computer vision technologies developed by Autodesk, called Camera Factory, and now made available through Project Photofly.  The project and technology will evolve using a phased approach.
I would imagine down the road in the future we may be able to take photos or video and create accurate point cloud derived geometry such as primitive shapes or objects into a 3D model complete with the textures. It is really quite exciting to me and also means for the modeling or acquisition of existing geometry like a historical building you would not need an army of employees with tape measures to capture the existing dimensional or topology data. Perhaps even combine technology to real-time augmented reality application where you can see the geometry and dimensions on a device or specialized glasses on a walk through during pre or post construction project. The possibilities are wide open and you are seeing a glimmer with Project Photofly.
sample photo scenes from the Project Photofly Getting Started page.
Review the Photo Shooting Guidelines from the Project Photofly Getting Started page and the Single page list of Tips.
Story by Design News: Autodesk Expands Design Tool Projects in the Cloud
Autodesk Labs blog post by Scott Sheppard: Photo Scene Editor for Project Photofly Now Available
Check this technology out and let us know what you think.
Between the Lines - Autodesk blog by Shaan Hurley