3D photography is a very cool area of tech that is getting increasingly popular, but there’s a pretty sizable barrier right now. In order to capture 3D imagery, you need to buy dedicated 3D scanning hardware that is often quite expensive, and most people don’t want to be bothered with it. That will continue to be the case for some time when it comes to complex 3D imaging, but a new app from Swiss software company Dacuda adds very cool 3D imaging capabilities to your iPhone.

And the best part is that a beta version of the company’s new app is available today, and it’s completely free to download.

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3DAround by Dacuda is a simple app to use, but the “SLAM Scan 3D technology” it employs is quite complex.

In just a few seconds, 3DAround can capture a 3D image with an iPhone 6 — and the result isn’t just 3-dimensional, it’s interactive. Thanks to the iPhone’s accelerometer, users can tilt their phones when viewing 3D images in the app and the image will shift and pan around as they do.

The app’s intended purpose is to capture 3D images of food, but it works just as well with any similarly sized object.

“The app allows users to share full dining experiences via 3D images so lifelike, viewers can almost taste the food,” Decuda CTO Alexander Ilic said. “3DAround extracts a full 3D model of an image, capturing object depth and structure as users move around to take food photos from various angles. It combines these multiple images into a single, virtual 3D photo.”

We have been testing the app and it works quite well. It is shockingly fast when it comes to capturing images, and processing is quick as well.

The app does have the same issue that other complex photography apps have, of course, and it comes into play when you want to share a 3D image. Since the interactive 3D photos must be viewed in the 3DAround app, other people must also be in the app to see them.

Of note, however, users are able to save and share 2D versions of images they capture. They can also share links to interactive images that can then be viewed by other people in a web browser.

The public beta of 3DAround goes live later today, and users can get it by visiting the following link:

Get 3DAround

Dacuda’s full press release follows below.

Dacuda Announces Public Beta Availability of 3DAround Mobile Food Photography App

Revolutionary technology enables social network sharing of 3D food images, leveraging iPhone 6’s camera features and iOS 8 functionality

ZURICH – Dacuda AG today announced public beta availability of its 3DAround app, a mobile food photography iPhone app. Beginning this evening at 7:00 p.m. Eastern, 4:00 p.m. Pacific, users can download 3DAround through Apple Testflight.

3DAround leverages Dacuda’s innovative omni-directional SLAM Scan 3D technology engine, software and smart algorithms to deliver, without expensive hardware, 3D scanning using the iPhone 6’s camera features with iOS 8.  To date, 1,000 users have been beta testing the app, developed in response to the mushrooming popularity of food photography shared via email and social networking.

“The app allows users to share full dining experiences via 3D images so lifelike, viewers can almost taste the food,” says Alexander Ilic, Dacuda’s Chief Technology Officer. “3DAround extracts a full 3D model of an image, capturing object depth and structure as users move around to take food photos from various angles. It combines these multiple images into a single, virtual 3D photo.”

Food photography’s popularity is growing in leaps and bounds, with “foodies” at restaurants and bars, kitchens and backyard cookouts posting multiple millions of food images on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest, among other social sites. Instagram alone features more than 140 million photos hash tagged “food.”

Based on joint cutting-edge research in robotics and computer vision between Swiss-based Dacuda and the University of Zurich’s Robotics and Perception Lab—led by Prof. Dr. Davide Scaramuzza—Dacuda’s  SLAM Scan 3D technology, in real-time, stitches highly accurate images over space and time while allowing for random camera movements.

“3DAround transforms standard single-camera smartphones into 3D depth-aware devices comparable to costly hardware-depth cameras,” Ilic says. “It superimposes several images and depth maps to produce a probabilistic dense-point cloud of the food. 3DAround is a true 3D app!”

As noted, Apple’s iOS8 camera interface is a key component to 3DAround development. Dacuda’s app leverages the iPhone 6’s robust interface and improved camera features to create food photos that you can not only almost taste, but also almost touch and smell. Leveraging the phone’s integrated gyro sensor, the app captures in holographic beauty and details the presentation of favorite home dishes, exotic restaurant meals and vacation food fare to create food diaries, art, family moments and reviews, Ilic says.

Updated to clarify that users can share links to 3D photos that can be viewed in a web browser by people without the app.

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