I’m utterly speechless. And it’s due to photogrammetry.

In a land far, far away, I was a land surveyor out West. In those heady times of shooting lasers, I become familiar with the idea of point clouds as representations of geometric space in coordinate form. Per our execution with lasers and reflective prisms, the resolution of our models were decided by how many measurements we took. For a big job, this might be in upwards of 100-300 points. Imagine hitting the corner of a building with a laser – all corners – then a few shots along the sides to confirm that walls weren’t billowing, or beams sagging. 14 hours later, you had 100, 200, 300 points in 3D space that would form a point cloud.

This was amazing.

Well, technology marches on. Sometime in the last 5-7 years, I stumbled on a project called Photosynth, that offered the ability to upload a series of overlapping photos to create a point cloud, where points were determined by parts of the images it determined were overlapping and the same point in space. Incredibly, it would deduce a 3D space from 2D images. This was absoluteley jaw-dropping at the time, and still is. It was also shortlived. The project was through Microsoft and the University of Washington, but with the proliferation of quadcopter drones and GPUs and more efficient and widely available processing of images, I’m assuming this technology was suddenly highly profitable.

I will keep this short for now, as the hours loom long, but truly consumer grade software has started to emerge that allow photogrammetry rendition of 3D models from images; much like Photosynth, but exportable to formats well understood in the 3D modeling space. Some is proprietary software like Photoscan, but other promising open source options like OpenDroneMap are hot on their heels.

My first photogrammetric project, a pair of 2+ year old Nikes with more miles than I can count. A particular fondness I have for old shoes; effortlessly they are by your side (or under your feet) in life moments of small to large; what else propel and protect like they do.

It is clearly quite rough, but, this was 12 images, taken quickly, from my phone. 12 images. From a phone. In poor lighting.

Undoubtedly, more to come. Much, much more. In fact, we are soon to meet with someone at Wayne State whom I understand to be doing this very thing for cultural artifacts. Now, how do we preserve, and provide discovery and access for these beauties…