Hands-on: How to digitize a dinosaur with HP 3D Capture

3D imaging used to happen on powerful workstations. Watch it happen here on a comparatively simple Sprout PC and the new 3D Capture Stage, turning a simple toy into a 3D image for printing, animation or other projects.

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Melissa Riofrio

3D imaging for normal people

There’s a reason why you need special computers and applications to do 3D imaging: It’s a process, and a data-intensive one, at that. Even HP’s Sprout PC, which was designed for imaging work, struggled to render 3D images when we tried it at the Getgeeked event on Thursday night in San Francisco.

To be fair, the process worked—just slowly. The new 3D Capture technology (check out the video!) is in beta and doesn’t ship until July, and it's still doing things no other PC can do. Here's what it looks like in action.

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Melissa Riofrio

HP puts 3D imaging in the spotlight

HP's Brad Short demonstrates the new 3D Capture Stage with the Sprout PC, positioning a dinosaur toy for one of the scanning phases.

The 3D Capture stage holds objects at about a 15-degree angle, while the imaging hardware sits at about a 20-degree angle. Combined, they offer many exposures of the object to the 3D scanner.

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Melissa Riofrio

The Sprout takes the first of many images

The Sprout's Intel RealSense cameras take depth-sensing images of the dinosaur toy. On the right you can see part of a Dremel 3D printer, where full 3D images could be turned into real objects. (Unfortunately we were unable to try this during our hands-on.)

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Melissa Riofrio

The shape of things to come

You can see the beginnings of a 3D image onscreen, as the 3D Capture tool and the Sprout map out one side of the toy dinosaur.

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Melissa Riofrio

A dinosaur on the diagonal

This looks like film noir, but it's actually the Intel RealSense cameras in the Sprout, photographing the contours of the dinosaur toy. The 3D Capture Stage rotates the toy at an angle to expose the sides to the cameras.

The 3D Capture Stage connects to the Sprout via USB and can fit objects up to 8 inches cubed.

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Melissa Riofrio

The software looks at all sides

You can see onscreen how the 3D Capture software has picked up a detailed image of the dinosaur's side and underbelly. When I tried the Sprout earlier this year, it couldn't handle objects that were black or shiny. That's been fixed now, I'm told, but it still prefers rigid objects to squishy ones.

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Melissa Riofrio

Turn the dinosaur for even scanning

It's not over yet! HP's Brad Short repositions the dinosaur toy for another phase of scanning. You need to do this to make sure all sides are scanned thoroughly. The 3D Capture Stage and the software walk you through the process. "Some professionals who've seen our system are envious of how much easier it is than their own applications," Short commented.

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Melissa Riofrio

A dinosaur today, criminal evidence tomorrow

The digital dinosaur is starting to fill out as the 3D Capture Stage takes more sides of the toy. But this isn't all fun and games: HP demonstrators told me that the Sprout was gaining a following in hospitals for patient education, and police stations for cataloguing evidence.

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Melissa Riofrio

Look at how well you're turning out

Note the small, dark blocks bracing the dinosaur on the 3D Capture Stage. Those are magnets that stick to the rubbery top and help hold objects in place on the angled surface.

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Melissa Riofrio

Magnets hold objects on the angled Capture Stage

Here's a closeup of the magnets stored under the 3D Capture Stage for positioning objects on top.

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Melissa Riofrio

Here's your digital dinosaur

It took about 20 minutes for the 3D Capture software to go from finishing its last scan to rendering the full 3D image. Remember, this is still in beta.

"We know we're slow," HP's Brad Short admitted, but he said the next month before launch would be used to improve the software.

What do you think about what the Sprout and the 3D Capture Stage can do? Let us know in the comments.