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Astera3D: bringing phones to life

20th March 2009

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It's all very well to look at a picture of a phone on a web page, but there's nothing quite like holding the real thing in your hands. Sometimes phones that look great on the screen don't look quite as good when you see them for real, and sometimes the overall design of a handset doesn't make sense until you get a grasp of the whole thing.

Of course, it's not always possible to get a real handset in your hands. Online retailers know this very well, and tend to struggle with product photos to give an impression of a device. Equally as well, customer support lines can struggle to demonstrate features such as battery removal and memory card slots over the phone.

Astera3D is a British company that can help address this problem. By creating interactive computer models, it is possible to give customers a much better idea of what a handset looks like and how it works than just by using plain old photographs.

It is possible to rotate devices in any direction, open and close them and you can even take the battery out. All without leaving the comfort of your computer.

How exactly do you create a model like this? Astera3D start by using a real object which they take several reference photographs of from different angles. Edges and details are checked carefully, and then when everything looks OK the whole device is converted into a wireframe image that a computer can use.

 Astera3D reference photographs

 Astera3D edges

 Astera3D wireframe

Once the form of the phone has been stripped down to the basics, it is built back up again. First of all, the wireframe is converted into a solid shape, then textures and graphics are added on. Finally, the model is lit and animated, then it can be exported into either a 3D interactive gadget or some other format.

 Astera3D rendering

 Astera3D textures

 Astera3D lighting

This can be done for almost any consumer device, but it seems more compelling with mobile phones because of the rapid turnover of models. And at a time when manufacturers and retailers are struggling to engage customers, this type of 3D modelling could make a real difference.

Astera have some other sample phone models, to have a look at, plus a variety of other consumer items that demonstrate that it is possible to model pretty much anything.

Is this type of thing the next leap forward for retailers and manufacturers? It's hard to say, but we think that this approach is pretty cool.. and hopefully we will be able to show some more 3D models from Astera in the future.

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