Autodesk Releases ReMake, a Photogrammetry Program for Everyone

Monday, June 6, 2016

After about a year in beta, Autodesk has finally allowed its photogrammetry software Memento to shed its beta skin and evolve into a full-blown piece of commercial software. The cloud-powered app even has a new name, ReMake.

ReMake is a tool for converting photos and 3D scans into high-quality, ready-to-use 3D models. The software contains all of the tools to clean up, edit, retopologize, decimate or optimize a model. What’s most impressive about ReMake is that it can take two-dimensional photos, separate the primary object in that photo from its background and create a high-quality 3D model from a group of photos taken around an object.

Essentially, ReMake allows anyone with a smartphone to capture objects from the real world and render them into digital 3D models. That has huge implications for how we interact with the world, especially now that 3D printing is becoming so ubiquitous and inexpensive. While it shouldn’t come as a surprise, Autodesk’s team leading the project is well aware of that fact.

At the recent REAL 2016 convention, we sat down and spoke with ReMake Senior Product Manager Tatjana Dzambazova and discussed the philosophy behind the product.

Earlier this year, Dzambazova was with Al Gore, Margaret Atwood and Edward Snowden to present ReMake at the Future of Story Telling summit, a gathering of media, technology and communications leaders, to demo how ReMakecan contribute to our shared human experiences. “Maybe the future of storytelling is that the story will be decoupled from the storyteller,” said Dzambazova.

What she meant is, stories will not only be told by a person, but also by things, both physical and digital. This will fundamentally change the way we understand a story.“I would have loved to have had 3D figures of me as a kid at five years old, 10 years old,” Dzambazova said. Transition that to how the technology can be applied in the medical arena. We can follow how our bodies change. In the 3D environment, a tool like ReMake may, in the future, be able to help recognize illnesses and plan surgeries, Dzambazova explained.

ReMake’s potential spans many different industries. In addition to fundamental research, ReMake is also being used to further science, art, entertainment, design and engineering. One of the benefits of using ReMake is that it streamlines the workflow by covering the entire process from capture to meshing in a simple, easy-to-use interface.

After a year in beta and some useful feedback from early adopters, the program has honed in on its key features. Some of the new enhancements in the release include:

  • Faster processing for constructing 3D models from photos on the cloud
  • Local (offline) processing for those who are concerned about privacy and intellectual property issues or have unreliable access to the Internet
  • In addition to full-fledged export with varying control options, a one-click simpler export feature to other software programs, including Fusion 360, AutoCAD, Maya, 3dsMax, ArtCAM, Blender and others, which is particularly useful for users who don’t need to understand what format, size or orientation is required
  • Improved mesh comparison and analysis tools, with an eye toward developing a more advanced tolerancing tool
  • A better way to set coordinate points, use geolocation tools, units and scale
  • Stronger sculpting and smoothing tools
  • An enhanced platform for publishing and sharing projects

If there’s any criticism about the product, it’s that it’s too broad, and that it’s difficult to determine whom the user will be. On the other hand, the tool seems to have democratized the 3D design environment with its broad variety of users and applications.

“We can reconfirm that technology is just a tool,” said Dzambazova. “It will not make you a better person, it will not make you more creative, it will just help you make things differently. We are in a curious state. Who else can leverage this technology? Can this be an alternative to design in the future?”

Dzambazova cited a project in California, where an increase in the raven population, due to a rise in the human population and its garbage, has led to an increase in attacks on desert tortoises by the ravens.

To help protect the tortoise, Dzambazova explained that conservationist William Boarman and Hardshell Labs have been using ReMake to design and create 3D models of tortoise shells that are currently being tested to record the predatory behavior of the ravens as well as develop methods to discourage the ravens from their attacks. The concept is that when the ravens start attacking the shells, the shells will give off a nontoxic deterrent (something equivalent to pepper spray) and this will eventually train the ravens to leave the tortoises alone.

“This story is my inspiration. It’s why I moved from architecture to technology,” said Dzambazova. “I always wanted to be part of a team that will make technology that allows small players to play the big game.” Dzambazova was trained as an architect and transitioned to the digital design world. She’s been with Autodesk for 15 years. Back in the day, Dzambazova said, she was asked if she wanted to work on photogrammetry, and she wasn’t interested. Even she didn’t see the potential. Today, she said, “I am stupefied with how much better it’s become.” The level of the detail with the meshes has improved greatly, she added. Applying this concept to another real-world experience, the Autodesk ReMake team recently collaborated with SmithsonianX 3D, part of the Digitization Program Office at the Smithsonian Institution. This division is charged with the herculean task of taking millions of objects and creating 3D images and prints that can be used in museums and for research and education throughout the world. It basically takes the museum out of the museum and allows people to access it from anywhere.

“This is the end of ‘Do Not Touch,’” said Dzambazova, recalling her conversations with Vince Rossi and Adam Metallo from the digitization team at the Smithsonian and citing an oft-seen phrase on signs in museums.“Now we can touch.”

The Smithsonian collection is stored and based on the online 3D graphics browser technology WebGL, although the team at Autodesk is creating a special edition for the Smithsonian to enhance the presentation of its materials, combining video, audio, text and drawings.

“The interesting thing for me is the blur between the analog and digital world,” said Dzambazova.“Designers and artists are making things with their hands and now they have the tools to turn them into 3D images and sculptures that can then be used in different ways.” Now that the team at Autodesk has developed the first release of ReMake, it wants to improve upon the product and make it more useful. “These are very interesting concepts that I believe will impact Autodesk as a company because our customers are designers and engineers. Their lives will change, so our lives will change,” said Dzambazova. “Software that frustrates you is a failed software. With ReMake, we will start to question every paradigm because we want to make the tool accessible. And the level of quality will reach the high-end engineering world as well.”

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