Autodesk Labs is home to technology previews where feedback determines the outcome. We try new things. Believe it or not, when it comes to a technology preview, failure is an option, but in the vast majority of cases, things turn out well.
When we were working on Project Showroom, a technology preview to test what it would be like to use photorealistic computer generated images as part of a shopping experience, I wrote a blog article:
Despite the occasional wrinkle, Project Showroom morphed into Project Neon which then graduated into the Autodesk Cloud rendering service that exists today.
Recently we worked on Project Photofly. Project Photofly was our technology preview to use the Autodesk Cloud to generate 3D models from 2D photographs. Based on your feedback, Project Photofly recently graduated to become 123D Catch Beta. Although how you take the pictures affects your success, the 123D Catch process really works.
For some time we have had a 3D photo booth in the Autodesk Gallery at our One Market office in San Francisco. When we started Project Photofly, we originally demonstrated the technology in a fun way by taking pictures of people's heads. To show that special hardware was not required, we had the person sit in a chair and took about 20 pictures using an ordinary digital camera. This proved the point but the person had to sit absolutely still while the pictures were snapped. That was uncomfortable for some, so we built a photo booth with 20 cameras so all pictures could be snapped at once. We had lots of success with our 3D photo booth in our gallery in San Francisco. The process emails the person links so they can use the Inventor Publisher Mobile Viewer (iPhone/iPad) or 123D Catch Beta (PC) to view their 3D model.
As I mentioned, Autodesk Labs is a team that tries new things. For AU we decided to create a more portable 3D photo booth that would allow us to preview the technology on the road. While we were at it, instead of using 20 cameras, we decided to use 36. Think Spinal Tap: "This one goes to 11." Actually 36 pictures would provide even more realistic 3D models. This was a great idea, except for one thing: USB contention. When 36 cameras all try to upload their pictures at the same time, the bus gets congested and not all of the pictures make it. You are sometimes left with 3D models that look like:
The network congestion also prevented some of the email messages from going out. If you did not receive yours, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org, and we can check your results.
I want to emphasize that the 123D Catch process works. Had the 3D photo booth uploaded all of the pictures, Jacques's head would have been complete. To avoid mistakenly associating the problem with the technology instead of the apparatus, I could have entitled this article as "Humor: when a photo booth goes bad." Thanks to Jacques Lévy-Bencheton for being such a great sport.
Learning from our mistakes is alive in the lab.