Autodesk Memento Turns Photos into 3D Objects

Autodesk has been releasing a steady stream of free software focused on 3D printing, from utilities like FBX Review and Meshmixer, through its line of 123D programs for creating, modeling and 3D printing objects. It recently extended this by launching Spark, an open platform that includes the Ember high-resolution printer.

123D Catch, which generates 3D models from photos taken with phones and offers editing and animation capabilities via a related Windows program, has been available since 2013. Autodesk Memento is also a Windows application, currently in open beta, that would seem to extend the capabilities of Catch and position it as a professional-level tool, appropriate for visual effects artists, game designers, artists, scientists art and antique dealers, makers and creators of handmade objects and designers of any kind — which is quite a list! Check out the first image below, which shows the kind of custom packaging that can be created, in this case by sending output through 123D Make.

Users can import photos or scans and let the program create objects composed of more than two billion meshes. These can then be analyzed, cleaned up, fixed and optimized for further digital use, web-based 3D experiences or 3D printing, using an integrated toolset that's designed for large 3D mesh models. It's also possible to import and export files in native .RCM, .OBJ, .STL, and .PLY(mesh) formats. If all this sounds promising but intimidating, Autodesk swears that Memento requires no prior knowledge of 3D modeling or CAD, and can be mastered in 20 minutes. Of course, you may remember that ease of use was how Adobe pitched the addition of 3D printing functionality to Photoshop. But dedicated programs like Memento call into the question the wisdom of bolting on such functionality to a 25-year-old image editing program.

The beta release of Memento for Windows is available for free download on the Autodesk site. Upcoming is a Mac version, followed by interactive 3D publishing on the Web, FBX export with cameras, the ability to view the photo camera positions in 3D space, and more-robust photo processing capabilities.