There is a growing interest in the graphics, vision, and manufacturing communities in building an inexpensive device capable of digitizing the shape and external appearance of objects for transmission, display, and numerically controlled fabrication. Applications for such a device include product design, fast prototyping, reverse engineering, and digitizing of shapes for the visual simulation, animation, and entertainment industries.
Toward this end, we have been developing a laser-based scanning system capable of generating an occlusion-free low-level geometric description of the externally visible surfaces of an object. Here is a flow chart of the process. (This flow chart is somewhat out of date.) The crucial step in this process is the merging of multiple range images, each of which captures only one side of the object, in order to produce a seamless description of the entire object. The representations we have investigated for this step include dense polygon meshes and 3D voxel arrays with an occupancy function at each voxel. Both representations eventually lead to a dense polygon mesh. We have also been exploring methods for fitting curved surface patches to these dense meshes. Future investigations include automatically determining the next best view and acquiring surface reflectivity.
As an application of this technology, we have embarked on a multi-year project to create a high-quality 3D archive of the sculptures of Michelangelo for scholarly, educational, and commercial purposes. In other words, the 3D fax machine project has morphed into the Digital Michelangelo Project.
A list of technical papers, with abstracts and pointers to additional information, is also available. Or you can return to the research projects page or our home page.