Viewing Photogrammetric Models on iPhone/iPad

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Since very recent I used to look at the iPhone and the iPad with a pinch of scepticism, as I believed it to be simply a less powerful laptop, mainly used for games and the occasional note taking. I’ve always been a Windows user, but last month I was given an old iPhone and I’m becoming more and more convinced of the effectiveness of the Apple products, especially with regards to 3D modelling and Photogrammetry.

The first thing I tried out was the 123D Catch app, which I am very pleased with. Unfortunately I don’t have 3G, so the great advantage of being able to create models wherever I am is lost on me. Still, regardless of personal use, it is truly a plus. Also, the camera itself is good enough to get the level of detail necessary.

The one thing though that got me thinking was the possibility of carrying with me my collection of models, so I have something to show when talking to people about Photogrammetry. In the last two months many times I’ve had to bring my laptop on site to show some results, and every time I risked it getting broken. As my phone is much easier to protect I realised that if I could get my models on my phone, it could save me a lot of money for a new laptop.

Therefore I started looking through all the different types of apps available, both free and commercial. Out of all the ones I found, the one I’m most pleased with is Meshlab for iOS, which is derived from the Meshlab I use on PC.

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Yesterday I went through the main flaws of the PC version, but the app is actually the best there is. It allows you to open Obj files with textures using mail or Dropbox, by placing them in a .zip archive, and then it views them in a typical Meshlab environment. The texture support is a deal breaker, as it’s what is giving me a lot of problems in other apps. Also, the navigation tools are easy and intuitive, and you can change the lighting with a single tap, highlighting certain areas. Finally, it doesn’t require an internet connection, which is ideal for my iPhone.

The only disadvantages I can see is that is does crash when opening large files, which is rarely a problem, but annoying in some cases, and the fact that the contrast is too high. The shadows it creates makes the models seem less natural than they should be, and there is no way to remove them. Although not really a major issue, it does make the models lose a bit. I’m guessing following updates will make this function better. Finally there is no way to sort files in folders, which could be difficult if you have many different models.

I shall continue investigating apps and see what I can find. By the looks of it there is a lot of potential for 3D modelling and archaeology awaiting me.

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