All too often, we take the capabilities of our iPhones and iPads for granted. But every time you use satellite navigation, live translation, or 4K video recording from a rectangle that fits in your pocket, you’re proof of how far technology has come. We’re essentially living in a sci-fi future, only instead of flying cars, we’ve developed Snapchat face filters.
Every now and again an app comes along that seems so technologically advanced, it rips you out of your bubble of complacency and reminds you of that fact. Bellus3D is exactly that, an app that can do with your phone something that would have been impossible just a few short years ago: instantly capture a detailed three-dimensional scan of your face.
Sure, you may not have a practical reason for doing so – but who doesn’t want to show their friends and family an uncanny virtual representation of themselves? And if you’re looking for inspiration, you could always use the model to produce your own action figures or transplant yourself into a videogame. (That’s a whole other tutorial, though.)
Scanning your face is incredibly easy, but you will need the right technology for it to work. No longer is a wallet-wrenchingly expensive 16-camera rig necessary for this kind of thing, but you will need an iPhone equipped with a TrueDepth camera. That means any iPhone with Face ID – the same array of sensors used to verify your face at login is used here.
To start, download Bellus3D free on the App Store and open it up. Create an account when prompted – this is necessary to save your scans.
You’ll be greeted with a red face-shaped silhouette covering a live feed from the front camera. Position your face so the silhouette turns green, and then choose the type of capture you’re after: Face, Face + Neck, or Full Head.
The first of these essentially captures a mask of your face, but tends to leave a hole in the top of your head where hair should be. The second scan takes slightly longer, with the added benefit of capturing your chin and crown. The last option (still in beta) automatically fills in the blank uncaptured parts around the back in an attempt to produce a complete head model. This produced pretty mixed results, so unless you particularly need the back of your head we’d recommend plumping for Face + Neck mode.
When you’re ready, you’ll want to look directly into the camera and keep your hand as steady as possible. Glasses and other accessories should be removed, and long hair should be tied back for best results. Tap the shutter button and then slowly rotate your head along with the on-screen instructions. Timing is important here, and it can take a few tries to get optimal results – but each scan only takes a matter of seconds so it’s easy to rinse and repeat.
Once your scan is complete, it’ll be saved to the My Models section. You can tap and drag on the screen to view yourself from every angle, and pinch to zoom.
Hit the Effects button for a few more treats: Motion, which moves the model in line with the movements of the device; Light, which adds a light source you can move around the scene; and Surface, which shows your 3D model as a plain mesh without the photographic texture.
When you’re done playing with your model, you have a few choices for saving it. To export a hi-resolution 3D file for manipulation elsewhere, you’ll have to shell out. Bellus3D charges $5/£5 for unlimited exports during a 24-hour window. So make sure to get all your scanning done before paying.
Casual users, however, may not have any need for the actual 3D files themselves. If you just want to show off your 3D model, the best bet is to capture a screenshot for a still image, or record your screen while manipulating the model for a video showcasing multiple angles. That way, you can set a creepy ‘uncanny valley’ version of yourself as your social media profile without spending a dime!