How to 3D scan your hometown, and make it into an sci-fi adventure in augmented-reality.

(in big steps)

We created the fictional future history of small rural town “Närpes”, and brought it to life in Augmented Reality.

In this blog we will talk about how we did this using photogrammetry and a bunch of other crazy techniques.

Toni and Helmi, playing with the future of Närpes in augmented reality

We rebuilt the city in 3D and came up with a fictional history of it´s rise and demise. Who would´ve ever thought Närpes, a small rural town on the east coast of Finland, would be responsible for nearly destroying the human race. And only because of its bottomless desire to create the perfect tomato. Damnit Närpes!

Interactive 3D model! Now give the invisioned future of Närpes city-center a spin! Spin that envisioned future!

So this is all very fun, but how was it made? Well I´m glad you asked.

Making a virtual copy of Närpes.
Photogrammetry of Närpes city center.

Photogrammetry is the technique of reconstructing 3D data from 2D still images.
It works by taking a crapload of images of the thing you want to reconstruct.

In this video, you can see us from MeMo in Närpes, taking photographs of pretty much everything from every angle.

Processing the images

All images are thrown into a Photogrammetry software. (list of suggested software to try for yourself at the end of this post)

Photogammetry software being all like: “Hey I get it! These points look super similar in all of these different pictures taken of the same object from different angles! I´m such a good photogrammetry software!”

By calculating the relation between these different points, the distances between them can be established and the photogrammetry software can calculate where these different points exist in 3D space.

Then the software spits out something like this:Virtual copy or “3D scan” of Närpes city center, calculated from hundreds of images.

We are now proud owners of a three-dimensional replica of reality. Personally, I like to think of them as “replicas of reality” or “three-dimensional photographs”.

Photogrammetry can be a complicated concept to grasp, but the process avaliable for use today is entirely automated and is relatively easy to use depending on your software.  You can actually create your own three-dimensional photographs just by downloading an app. I for example used an app called “SCANN3D” to sell my couch:

“Osta minut! Olen tosi hyvä sohva!” is Finnish for : “Buy me! I’m a very good couch!

 

3D modelling the future.
The fun part.

I knew I wanted the buildings to bend and turn in ways that looks great but doesn’t make sense. I managed to model these turning houses that would function as housing for the growing number of inhabitants.

The apartmentbuildings Turner, Hooch and Tina Turner

Then I wanted to mix in some Greek antique architecture mainly because I´m a sucker for that kind of stuff. I just love Greek temples and detailed statues. There are theories that the name “Närpes” comes from “Nerhtus”, goddess of fertility in germanic paganism, so I saw this as a suitable reason to make a huge statue in Närpes city square.

Monument of Nerthus, godess of fertility in germanic paganism

I bought the statue, oxes and carriage from an online 3D store “TurboSquid”. I modeled the pilar and the “boxy” environment to blend in a more modern cubism type of thing.

My cubism brings all the boyz to the yard

I modeled a simplelooking electromagnetic metro.

Gots to have transportation!

Turbines that process excess energy in the Närpes energy network, also bought from turbosquid.

Turbine towers

The last thing I added was some flying transportation, because what kind of prediction of the future is complete without flying transportation? I figured big drones were the way to go. I got these great ones from 3Dwarehouse. Thanks user elyyo for theese:)

ffrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrh—ffrhhhhhhhhhhh (dronesounds)

Great! Let’s throw it in to augmented reality!

 

Augmented Reality “AR”

The famous “whale in the school gym” visualization by AR pioneers Magic Leap

Augmented reality is basically digital 3D models in our physical reality. If you have a 3D model, you can put this model in augmented reality.
I like to romantically think of augmented reality as another dimension on top of our regular world. It is always there but you just can´t see it all the time. Your magic window into this world is your phone, digital screen or glasses.

The most reasonable solution for me was to use “target based” augmented reality which is a technique that most phones today can handle.
Targetbased means that an application (in our case Arilyn) recognizes an image and loads your 3D model on top of it.

If you download the free “Arilyn” application and look trough your phone at this picture. The 3D model of Närpes future city center will appear using this image as a groundplane. Click the picture to make it bigger, or why not print it out?

Four different targets were printed out on 120 X 60 cm panels and then exhibited in the Närpes Art hall for the public to go and behold through their phones.

It was loads of fun and perhaps the most fun I got out of it was discussing the possibility of the different scenarios with a wide variety of people from different areas of the Närpes society. It really led to digging deeper into the story; finding holes in it and repairing them with insane theories. Which I enjoyed a lot.

Here is a picture from the exhibition:

Thanks for reading!
/Henrik “Honken” Gullmets, MeMo 3D experiments

Programs used:

Autodesk recap, Reality Capture, Maxon Cinema 4D, Instant meshes, xnormals, Photoshop, Unity and Arilyn

Photogrammetry software tips :

  • Autodesk recap photo. You can get a trial of recap photo as part of Autodesk Recap. I think it´s really simple and great as a starting software, just load your footage in and click one button.
  • Meshroom if you´re searching for something that is not trialbase meshroom is open source and completely free
  • Agisoft photoscan Trial avaliable. Photoscan gives you more control and a great software, but also harder to learn.
  • SCANN3D is an app and you are able to do photogrammetry just by using your phone.

Here is a good video explaining photogrammetry and giving pointers on how to photograph your object: