Sony Xperia XZ1: What is 3D scanning and how does it work?



Sony released their latest flagship in IFA a few months back and the device has built-in 3D scanning capabilities. Obviously, this was a feature that I got particularly excited over, and finally, I got to test it out.

This is the Sony Xperia XZ1

In true Sony fashion, the handset is sleek, boxy, and to me, very reminiscent of a chocolate bar.

Sony Xperia XZ1

It has flagship functionalities like powerful cameras (which take great photos and have super slow-mo video capabilities), a Full HD display, and a top-of-the-line Snapdragon processor.

But, most importantly, it has 3D scanning capabilities!

Now, I know that 3D scanning isn’t particularly new — you could download apps to be able to get this function on most devices — but Sony’s implementation allows you to do more fun things with your scan. You’ll see later on.

Let the 3D scanning begin!

All scanning is done via the 3D Creator app that’s built in. Though originally available on the Xperia XZ1, the app has been made available to other Sony devices, as well.

Sony Xperia XZ1 3D scanning

Said app allows for four different types of scanning modes: 360 degrees of your head, face, free form, and food. Now, I know what you’re thinking: What ever would I need to scan? Well, I’d imagine a lot. Food photography, for one, will never be the same. Imagine having 3D scans of your meals instead!

Sony Xperia XZ1 3D scanning food

Or, scan your friends to remember them by, always! Below is a scan or Marvin, our Managing Editor, which is an effective reminder to always double-check the grammar in my articles.

Besides, at this point, it’s not a matter of what you need to do, but what you can do with the 3D scanning — and you can do a lot.

How to 3D scan

Sony, in theory, makes it easier for people with no prior 3D scanning experience (i.e., me) to create scans.

Sony Xperia XZ1 3D scanning process

Figure 1

I enlisted the help of Chay, GadgetMatch’s Creative Director (perfect because I’d imagine this to be a creative activity), to put the 3D scanning app to the test.

This is how it goes: You open 3D Creator and start off by picking which type of scan you’d want to do. I chose the “head scan” for this tutorial. This means we scan 360 degrees of Chay’s likeness. The first step (as shown in Figure 1) entails fitting the subject’s face into an outline. You are then instructed, by big directional arrows, to move around the subject for the actual scanning (see Figure 2).

Sony Xperia XZ1 3D scanning a girl

Figure 2

Seems easy enough, yes? I’ve seen people do it during the launch in IFA, and I’ve even witnessed it being done to me at the Xperia XZ1’s local launch. So, I tried…

Sony Xperia XZ1 3D scanning

Figure 2.1

… and tried…

Sony Xperia XZ1 3D scanning

Figure 2.2

… and tried harder.

Sony Xperia XZ1 3D scanning

Figure 2.3: Chay getting really bored

Guess what? It wasn’t as easy as it looked. Who knew following a line could be so hard?

You also need perfect lighting and very accurate spacial-navigation skills for the perfect scans. But, let’s be honest — no one’s perfect, especially at first try. And then, there were times when the app just froze. It’s a learning process with the end of each scan telling you what went wrong, or what you could fix to better the scan (Figure 3).

Sony Xperia XZ1 3D scanning

Figure 3

When we finally finished, we ended up with less than perfect scans. Still, workable 3D scans are very impressive feats in themselves.

Sony Xperia XZ1 3D scanning results

Figure 4

In theory, we could make really detailed mini versions of Chay’s head — if we were patient enough to perfect how to do it.

Final product!

So, okay, I scanned Chay. Now what?

Well, you can 3D print all the mini-Chays you want! In some countries, Sony has even partnered with 3D printing services to make this process quick and seamless.

But, if you’re not the figurine-lover type like me, fret not: 3D Creator also has AR integration. You can dress up your mini-Chays in funky dino suits (just one among the many options) and make it dance around the real Chay like I did! Think Snapchat’s Bitmoji AR features, only better.

Sony Xperia XZ1 3D scanning AR

There are pre-set poses and actions you can make the 3D-scanned avatar do. Take photos, shoot videos, you name it. You can even use your 3D scan as a live smartphone wallpaper because, why not? The app also has social media integration so you can share said scans away. Also, a crowd favorite: GIF stickers are a possibility! See below:

Sony Xperia XZ1 3D scanning

So, is Sony’s 3D scanning worth it?

There’s still much to be improved. Don’t get me wrong — this is some great tech, but user experience can be made better, easier. I have no doubt, however, that the developments would come sooner or later.

Bottomline is: Sony has found an enjoyable way to integrate 3D scanning tech in our 2017 lives because let’s be real, who 3D prints stuff for fun? On the other hand, I send fun GIFs to people on a daily basis and this level of personalization is a dream.

Some may argue this is another useless smartphone feature, but in the age of animated emojis, I would argue otherwise.

SEE ALSO: Sony Xperia XZ1 and XZ1 Compact Hands-On

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