Grant Schindler, a computer scientist at the Georgia Institute of Technology, has created what is admittedly a pretty cool iPhone 4 app. It's called Trimensional, and it allows your phone to act as a 3D scanner. While you could use it to obtain a three-dimensional frontal image of pretty much any object, if the product's website is anything to go by, users' faces seem to be a particularly popular subject.
To use Trimensional, you go into a room and turn out the lights (the darker, the better), turn the brightness all the way up on the phone's screen, put the phone within 20 centimeters (8 inches) of the object you wish to scan, then hit "capture." The phone will proceed to take four photos, each one lit from a different angle - even though the phone itself is held still. The software will then combine those four photos into one 3D image.
Besides just rotating the image back and forth on your iPhone's screen, you can also save and post it as a jpeg, animated GIF, or looped QuickTime movie, or export it into any number of graphics programs. More intriguingly, should you have access to a 3D printer, you can also create a physical model of the image.
Trimensional is clearly intended to be mostly a fun/artsy app, although it can undoubtedly be put to practical use in some situations. Considering that prices for dedicated 3D scanners start at around US$3,000, a 99-cent program - even if you have to buy a $500 iPhone to go with it - is definitely a decent deal, if it suits your purposes.
The app also works on the iPad 2 Wi-Fi and 4th generation iPod touch, and is available through iTunes. You can watch Schindler putting it through its paces in the video below.
Source: New Scientist