Image processing is making leaps and bounds as processors shrink and cloud computing takes off. It’s gotten to the point where depth can be extrapolated from single-shot photos; it takes some fancy algorithms and intense calculations, but programs can simulate/predict shapes, textures, and colors of occluded areas of a photograph. In other words, software makes a very educated guess that the blue sky will continue to be blue behind people, and the backs of heads will be round and have hair that’s of similar color and texture as what’s visible. With relative size and distance approximations, depth can also be determined. The new service 3DEFY does some version of this to generate 3D printable images from ordinary photos.
You may remember BumpyPhoto, which offers a similar service. The differences are that 3DEFY gives users control over the creation of the image and their paying for the conversion. BumpyPhoto sells actual prints. 3DEFY sells 3D files that users can then have printed by whatever service they prefer. The modeler is fairly easy to use: upload a photo, trace the subjects, push/pull to preference, and set some basic print parameters. Images can also be bent and turned. It’s fun to play with.
Images are exported in X3D format, which is a full-color standard. Supports are automatically generated for hollow prints, but they can also be solid. Hooks and frames can be added as well for hanging on a wall. The files can be further modified in third-party modeling programs after being converted to STL, OBJ, or whatever format users prefer. For $4.99, users get an unlimited amount of conversions and downloads of their uploaded images. This allows users to try different print settings for achieving optimal visual effect. There are also package deals available for those that want to convert multiple images. 3D prints aren’t quite up to the HD resolution of regular photos but it’ll happen soon. When it does, 3D photos will become much more common. Companies like 3DEFY will press the image processing technology to keep up with the capabilities of 3D printers.