Many people are already annoyed when characters on TV cop shows "zoom in and enhance" on a photo, to reveal a level of detail that could never really have been captured by the camera. Thanks to software developed at Carnegie Mellon University, however, it's now possible to actually turn objects in a photo around ... seemingly revealing sides of them that were facing away from the camera when the picture was taken.

Before you get too excited, the system doesn't actually reveal other sides of the very object that was in the photo. Instead, it utilizes existing third-party stock 3D models of similar objects, found online. This means that it's currently limited to fairly common items, although more and more such models are being created on a daily basis for use in processes such as 3D printing and animation.

The software assesses the geometry of the existing photo, then manipulates the model accordingly, so the resulting blended image is very realistic. This includes not only altering the model's size and shape (along with that of the original image), but additionally changing its color, surface texture and lighting.

Along with its use in photographs, the technology could reportedly also be applied to objects in paintings, or be used to animate one object in an otherwise still photo.

"In the real world, we're used to handling objects – lifting them, turning them around or knocking them over," said Natasha Kholgade, a Ph.D student who is also the lead author of the study. "We've created an environment that gives you that same freedom when editing a photo."

More information is available in the following video.