Lockdown 3D object creation

As the UK entered Coronavirus lockdown, Tim and I began working on our idea for a cloud pipeline to generate 3D digital objects.

3D objects are becoming increasingly common and valuable. They are the building blocks of all Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality experiences and more and more organisations are trying to use them in different ways. Films and games are the obvious examples, but they’re also being used in medicine, architecture and various industrial processes. 

And of course, 3D printing is also becoming more and more popular, and this relies on accurate 3D models as well.

There are many ways of generating a 3D object, but the one we focused on is called photogrammetry . Basically you take a lot of pictures of an object from different angles, you process them with some software and this generates a 3D object for you.  It is an amazing feat of complex maths and number-crunching; perfect for the cloud-compute power of AWS!

When the Covid shutters came down we had to improvise. So I set up a (very basic) studio in my house to continue capturing images. 

A lockdown photography studio

The other thing I did was have a socially distant chat with the people who run a local estate near where I live. Stephens House and Gardens used to belong to Victorian businessman Henry “Inky” Stephens, the creator of Stephens Ink. He left it to the people of Finchley when he died and there is a small museum on the site dedicated to him and his business. Both the gardens and the museum had to close because of Covid-19.

So we worked together to use some of the museum’s artifacts to generate some 3D digital objects. It gave us an opportunity to try out and validate our pipeline, and the House a chance to offer the local residents an additional service with a glimpse of the museum’s collection in 3D online.

In went pictures like these …

… and out came a 3D object like this…

You can see the full set on their website.

Malcolm Godfrey, manager of Stephens House & Gardens, said: “The objects Exor Technology have digitsed look amazing. With the museum closed for the foreseeable future, this has given us an opportunity to give everyone a glimpse of the collection, and to stay in touch with our local community in these difficult times”.

Our pipeline leverages the ability of AWS to scale out compute power using EC2 instances and container services, as well as store and transfer large quantities of data via S3. Other services like SQS queues and SNS messaging can then be harnessed to schedule jobs and let people know how things are progressing and when processes have finished.

Building a product like this is always an iterative process. But working on this real use case helped us validate not only that the technology works but, more importantly, that by abstracting some of the software and hardware complexity involved in the use of photogrammetry we can open access to 3D object generation to new markets. Stephens House would never have been able to consider doing something like this in the past. Now they are thinking about getting funding to digitise more of their collection!

If you think something like this can help your business, get in touch.