New Software invented

A third-year PhD student has developed revolutionary 3D-modelling software. Qi Pan of Fitzwilliam College, who is also MCR President, designed the programme with the help of his supervisor, Dr Tom Drummond, and of Dr Gerhard Reitmayr and Ed Rosten.

Qi explained to The Cambridge Student (TCS) why his programme ProFORMA (Probabilistic Feature-based On-line Rapid Model Acquisition) is so groundbreaking. He said, "ProFORMA is a system which allows you to create 3D models of textured objects from live video, using just a webcam and an ordinary computer. It enables 3D models to be created immediately, with no requirements for expensive hardware." ProFORMA can be used to acquire fully-textured, geometric models in just over one minute.

Dr Tom Drummond, Qi's PhD supervisor, outlined another benefit: "Unlike previous systems, ProFORMA does not require user input to help model the structure – it's essentially fully automatic." ProFORMA by-passes the need for any skilled operators in order to create models. Dr Drummond added: "The system should be much easier for people with no computer vision experience in particular."

Qi explained to TCS how the software is used: "The webcam remains stationary and a textured object is rotated in front of it by hand, and as this happens a model is built on the computer in real-time."

The hand is discarded from the reconstruction because it does not conform to the rigid body motion of the object. Moving the object by hand allows all parts of it, including the base, to be viewed and modelled.

Qi added: "It lets you immediately know the quality of the model based on your video sequence, without having to wait tens of minutes or hours to see whether you need to collect another video."Qi has already won the Best Demo Prize at the 2009 ISMAR (International Symposium on Mixed and Augmented Reality) and he intends to keep working on the programme. He said: "I'd like to think that this is only the beginning, and I will be looking to greatly improve its performance in the future."

At the moment, the software only works for textured (detailed), rigid objects but he is hoping to improve the algorithm to be less dependent on texture. It has taken around eighteen months to develop the system to the current point. In a few months, a Linux-based demo of ProFORMA will be released, followed by a Windows-based demo. The system, and research based on it, will form the main topic of Qi's thesis.

Dr Drummond added: "We've had enormous interest in the system from both academic and commercial sectors. The YouTube video has now had over 170,000 hits!"

One application of the new software that he suggests is in the creation of 3D models for use in computer games.

Andrew Georgiou – News Reporter

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