Arqball Spin uses video playback to create 3D model-like effect

Arqball Spin is a new combination of Kickstarter project and iOS app that is creating some buzz around the net, and actually confusing people as to what it is in the process. The basic concept here is that you have a revolving stage to set an object on, and an app that will “scan” it for 20 seconds and create an interactive experience from that. The result is an “animation” in which the object can be turned around using touch input and the background is standing still. You can also zoom in an out, and embed the entire thing into a web page. Use a white enough background, and it looks like you have a spinning, interactive, photo-realistic 3D model of the object. Add annotations to parts of the “spin”, and you can create fancy situations where information about parts of an object spin into view as you spin the object. These can then be embedded into a webpage, and e.g. give webshop owners a way to display highly advanced product previews.

Sounds nice? It is, it really is. What’s interesting here though is that people think it involves 3D models, which it in no way whatsoever does. What actually happens here is that a 20 second (one rotation) video clip is being made, and then put on infinite repeat. With the camera standing still and only the object spinning, the effect you get is that the object is a 3D model spinning around and around, wheras it’s just a looping video of an object spinning in real life. There’s no 3D model involved, nothing aside from a looping video. By allowing people to manipulate the speed and direction of the video playing, it gives the illusion that they’re grabbing a virtual object and spinning it around its own axis, whereas they’re actually just scanning the video forwards and backwards at various speeds. And the annotations? They’re just part of the video. There’s no advanced system that tells the back end that part X of object Y just became visible, display annotation Z now – it’s simply a text overlay on the video that becomes visible when you reach that point in the video.

I have to say I find this entire story extremely fascinating. I don’t think anyone can argue with the usefulness of the resulting HTML5-based boxes with seemingly photo realistic, interactive objects in them, and I hope they get the Kickstarter project funded so that they can bring the stages to market, leaving out the DIY aspect of it. How they achieve this is what’s really interesting, using what’s really very old technology (HTML5 aside) in a way that manages to make supposedly tech savvy people think they’ve invented a high tech 3D scanning system for iPads and iPhones when they’ve only really invented a new video player and a spinning plate.

I have to say I’m tempted to get one of these stages myself, or make one. Imagine a review of a tablet where the main photo is one of these interactive HTML5 boxes, complete with annotations highlighting ports and such as you spin it around. Would be pretty neat, wouldn’t it?

[Arqball | Kickstarter]

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Andreas Ødegård

Andreas Ødegård is more interested in aftermarket (and user created) software and hardware than chasing the latest gadgets. His day job as a teacher keeps him interested in education tech and takes up most of his time.

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