Autodesk has upgraded Memento from its status as technology preview to public beta and will soon be releasing a Windows desktop app version that’s cloud-connected. The app can be downloaded for free. Autodesk Senior Product Manager Tatjana Dzambazova estimated that a Mac version of Memento should be available near the end of March 2015 or so.
Memento is incredibly powerful, with the capacity to generate and edit two-billion-polygon meshes but, according to Autodesk, it is also quite user-friendly. The system, which is a hybrid — part cloud-based, part desktop computing — lets you convert reality capture input into high-quality 3D models. For instance, let’s say you have a set of photos that depict a three-dimensional object from a variety of viewpoints. With Memento, you can transform them into 3D models. Another method for inputting imagery into Memento is via handheld or mid-range laser scanners.
The 3D models Memento generates can be utilized as display models in 3D for interactive websites, 3D printed as physical objects, and used in visual effects or animation work.
Evidently, the same software engine that’s used for Autodesk’s consumer reality-capture software (for iOS, Android, and PC), 123D Catch, is also used for Memento. However, whereas with 123D Catch there’s a limit to the maximum resolution of photos and the number of photos that you can upload to produce a single model, there won’t be such limits with Memento. Note that this public beta version does limit you to 250 photo uploads, but Autodesk expects they’ll ultimately be able to offer “essentially limitless” uploading.
Autodesk envisions Memento assuming a powerful new role in the production of movies and games. It will rapidly generate assets. With Memento, once the designer creates a mesh, he or she can select and remove irrelevant parts of the image capture. If you have experience with Photoshop, you’ll recognize some of the tools available in Memento — the smart brush, the marquee, and the lasso. Repairs like patching up the “holes” in a model can be accomplished either manually or automatically and the models can be additionally prepped for 3D printing, using Memento’s embedded 3D printing support.
As a means of promoting the Memento engine, sample applications for the web and for scientific research have been launched. For instance, the Smithsonian has just initiated its interactive website, Smithsonian X 3D, which lets users manipulate high-quality 3D models of artifacts in the museum’s collection. The user has the capacity to manipulate materials, lighting, and environments. This isn’t your standard, if impressive, virtual museum tour by any means, however.
“We show the objects as beautiful as they are in real life,” explains Dzambazova. “We’re not talking about a 3D viewer. It is really about exploration at many levels, for aficionados and end users, but also for scientists to tell the story in a 21st century way.”
With Memento, the Smithsonian can provide breathtakingly realistic, three-dimensional models of artifacts that closely approximate a hands-on experience — no gloves or special environmental controls required! The Smithsonian X 3D site lets you examine a 3D model of the 1903 Wright Flyer in the collection of the Air and Space Museum, including clicking on various points on the model to access factual information. You can get an up-close look at an Embreea Orchid from the Smithsonian Gardens or a whale fossil from the Museum of Natural History.
Similarly, thanks to the initiative of africanfossils.org you can inspect fossils from the National Museum of Kenya and the Turkana Basin Institute field stations. You can tour the lab (virtually) and then a close look at, for example, a 1.9 million year old skull from the species Homo Erectus. As you rotate the skull in space, you can observe even minute details like the catalog number and the fractured edges of the reassembled skull found in 1972 by Bernard Ngeneo.
Dzambazova couldn’t speculate about Autodesk’s business model for the Memento software. The software is still in beta version while Autodesk figures out how best to make this groundbreaking 3D software available to a broad variety of users. In the meantime, the public beta versions will be free for downloading at least until the end of 2015.
Will you use Memento to look into history or your own personal projects? Let us know what uses you foresee for the new software in the Autodesk Releases Memento Software forum thread over at 3DPB.com.