Carnegie Mellon Researchers Develop New 3D Measurement Tool

A group of researchers at Carnegie Mellon University have developed a method to accurately provide measurements for 3D objects using mobile phones. The team members discovered that they could simply make use of the inertial measurement units (IMU) installed and already used in smartphones to change the phone’s view from portrait to landscape. Some foresee this technology being especially groundbreaking in the virtual shopping space and development of self-driving cars. 

mobileSimon Lucey, associate research professor at the Robotics Institute, tells Carnegie Mellon News, “these ‘noisy’ IMUs are good enough that, when the user waves the camera around a bit, they can calibrate 3D models as they are created and enable the phone to get accurate measurements from the models.”

The test results for the technology have been remarkably impressive yielding measurements between a person’s eye pupils within a half millimeter.

With future improvements, the technology has the potential to be of common use for online shoppers buying products and goods that typically require measurements, such as furniture and eyewear.

“And though the technique does not yet operate in real time,” notes Carnegie Mellon News, “it’s possible that someday robots and self-driving cars might be able to use this low-energy passive perception to help navigate, rather than power-hungry active perception technologies, such as radars and laser rangefinders, that emit radiation, Lucey said.”

Lucey belonged to a group of researchers that developed Smart Fit, a technology used to recreate “a 3D model of a person’s face so that person could virtually ‘try on’ eyeglass frames.” Unfortunately, the technology failed to produce reliable measurements, at least without extraneous attempts to correct the problem. 

After further research, Lucey and colleagues at the University of Queensland, Surya Singh and Kit Hamm, discovered they could use a smartphone’s IMU to accurately measure objects that had been captured using a smartphone video camera, all at costs much less expensive than those associated with previous attempts at solving the same issue. 

“‘The amazing thing is that we can turn any smartphone into a ruler — no special hardware, no depth sensors, just your regular smart device,'” Lucey says of the new measurement technology.

In related research, a team at Caltech has developed a tiny high-resolution 3D imager that could potentially be used by smartphones to enable users to take a photograph, send it to a 3D printer, and quickly and easily create a replica that is accurate to within microns of the object.

“The new chip utilizes an established detection and ranging technology called LIDAR, in which a target object is illuminated with scanning laser beams,” reports Caltech. “The light that reflects off of the object is then analyzed based on the wavelength of the laser light used, and the LIDAR can gather information about the object’s size and its distance from the laser to create an image of its surroundings.”

Caltech envisions the technology leading to precise 3D scanning and printing that could be used for “helping driverless cars avoid collisions to improving motion sensitivity in superfine human machine interfaces, where the slightest movements of a patient’s eyes and the most minute changes in a patient’s heartbeat can be detected on the fly.”