New Scientist

Ever fancied taking your favourite possessions with you into the virtual world? Spiral Scratch, a start-up company in Liverpool, UK, has come up with a cheap device that generates three-dimensional computer representation of any object it scans.

The design industry already uses 3D scanners, but these machines cost thousands of pounds and are bulky and complex to operate. They typically use an array of cameras to scan an object and then recreate it in three dimensions on a computer.

Spiral Scratch's system is far simpler. A projector beams light through a grating that projects a pattern of horizontal lines across an object placed on a rotating platform .

The pattern is focused just in front of the object, so the lines fall out of focus to a different extent depending on how far back a particular point on the object is.

A camera connected to a computer then scans vertically, capturing the sharpness of the edge of each shadow. The more gradual the change from light to dark, the farther back the point must be.

As the object turns on the table, the system builds up a complete picture of the object's shape. Colours captured by the camera are applied to the virtual object once the complete shape has been generated.

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