Imagine providing 3-D (three-dimensional) models for learners to study—medical models, 3-D reproductions of sculptures, geographic locations, even of people. Now imagine creating these models easily and inexpensively. Using a 3-D model moves learners toward fully immersive or augmented reality experiences and adds exponentially to the potential for interactive learning.

Creating a 3-D model using photogrammetry is a shoestring method of creating a virtual object for study. Learners can view and interact with a 3-D model using their computers or mobile devices, turning the model around and looking at it from various angles. Online clothing retailers, for example, sometimes use this technology to show the fit of the clothing from all angles on a 3-D model that stands in for the customer.

Photogrammetry and smartphones

A 3-D model is produced from digital still photographs, not from video. An eLearning developer can create some 3-D models—of a person, a sculpture, or a building, for example—using a smartphone camera and free or inexpensive software, such as the 123D Catch app. Creating 3-D models of larger objects or locations or generating a digital elevation model of a tract of land requires aerial photography.

The process of photogrammetry converts multiple overlapping photo images into a 3-D model of an area or an object. It’s also used to create maps and measurements.

Aerial photogrammetry uses aerial photographs, taken from a drone or airplane, to create maps or digital elevation models. The camera shoots multiple overlapping images of the ground along the flight path.
Close-range photogrammetry uses photos taken with a handheld or tripod-mounted camera; the results are converted to 3-D models using point clouds. A 3-D model of a building or an object of any size can be created this way; some models can be printed using a 3-D printer.