We already use our phones to help us document places and things we see out in the world; beyond just taking simple pictures or videos, we also have software that can help create panoramas to add a degree of interactivity. Microsoft has been investigating some ways to take that to the next level and create full-on 3D scans. At its TechFest this week, the company showed off a few scanning systems it's developed, including one that runs on Windows Phone 8.
The video below also shows some impressive scanning systems, including one using the Kinect accessory from the Xbox 360 and one employing a green screen curtain, but we're most interested in the smartphone approach.
It works a little like taking a panorama in reverse, where you must slowly circle your subject, keeping it centered in frame, while the app takes a number of still shots. Those are then uploaded to Microsoft's servers where they're processed to form a wireframe representation of the subject, along with a corresponding texture map. When sent back down to your phone, you have a fully 3D, manipulable representation of your subject.
There's no telling whether or not Microsoft will make this into a publicly available app, but it sure is fascinating to see in action.