Fotowoosh Will Turn Any Picture Into A 3D Image

Fotowoosh, a new service from Maryland-based startup Freewebs, will turn any image (preferably an outdoor image) into a 3D model. They went live on Friday. Examples of what the service can do are above (along with the original 2D images. A video is here which shows more examples.

The 3D image is constructed in Virtual Reality Modeling Language (VRML) format, meaning you currently need a VRML reader to see it (future browsers will likely build this functionality in). In a week or so, the company say, users will be able to upload a picture and have a 3D animated image returned to them in a Flash widget that can be embedded on any website.

When you upload an image to Fotowoosh, their software tears it apart and distinguishes the sky, ground and vertical elements within the photo, then cuts and folds it into a 3D model:

Our system automatically constructs simple “pop-up” 3D models, like those one would find in a children’s book, out of a single outdoor image. The system labels each region of an outdoor image as ground, vertical, or sky. Line segments fitted to the ground-vertical boundary in the image and an estime of the horizon’s position provide the necessary information to determine where to “cut” and “fold” in the image. The model is then popped up, and the image is texture mapped onto the model.

This is the creation of Derek Hoiem, a PhD candidate in Robotics at Carnegie Mellon University, who’s now working with the company. Additional information on the intellectual property behind Fotowoosh is here and here (these links auto-download a pdf and a powerpoint document).

Microsoft is working on something related to this in their Live Labs group called Photosynth (more information here). The product will construct a 3D model based on lots of photos of the same thing or general area from different angles.

Freewebs raised $11 million in venture capital in August 2006 from Columbia Capital and Novak Biddle. The company’s main product is a website building tool that draws 18 million or so visitors per month. Shervin Pishevar, the company’s president, say that Fotowoosh will be a standalone service, and they’ll also integrate it with offerings from partners as well as the Freewebs service itself.