Software Allows Photographers to Manipulate Objects in 3D

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University have developed a new photo-editing tool that lets users turn and flip objects as if they were in 3D. Photo editors have only been able to manipulate objects in 2D by resizing them or changing their location within the photo. This new software uses a publicly available database of models to recreate objects, even the sides that were not captured by the camera. Researchers found that this software could be used for animations as well.

The software uses information from a variety of sources to realistically recreate the objects in photos. First, the program studies the structure and symmetry of the object in the photo and matches it up with a model in the database. Then it calculates the correct environmental illumination, so that the curves and edges of the object has the correct lighting.


The photo editing tool is limited by the amount of 3D models available and the inevitability that some real objects simply won’t match up with the correct model because of aging, weathering, or lighting, according to Wired. However, because 3D scanning is becoming more widespread, the database of models will continue to grow, and hopefully help alleviate some of the problems with matching models.

Despite the software’s flaws, this new technology opens up a world of possibilities for artists. Not only does the system work with digital 2D photos, it can also work with historical photos. Researchers have also used this technology, which will be presented at the SIGGRAPH graphics conference in Vancouver next week, to make animations.

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