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Convert a Physical Object to a Digital Object in Reality Composer [Video Tutorial]

11th November 2023

Jacob Woolcock


In this QuickTips video, I’m thrilled to share an in-depth guide on scanning any 3D object into your iPhone using Reality Composer. Join me as I explore the fascinating world of augmented reality, utilising the Object Capture API to effortlessly convert physical objects into digital marvels. This tutorial simplifies the complexities of 3D modelling, making it an engaging and educational experience for users of all levels. Unleash your creativity and discover how to seamlessly integrate the digital and physical realms with your Apple device. Let’s get started on this exciting journey!

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How many times have you wanted to capture a realistic and lifelike 3D scan of a cuddly alien? Well, probably not that many times, but this quick tip will show you how you can capture a 3D scan of any object and use it in different applications on your phone and your devices using the free Reality Composer app.

So, jumping straight in, I’m going to press the plus button on the top toolbar, and from here, I’m going to select an object capture. This uses the new Object Capture feature in iOS 17 to create a really realistic, lifelike scan of your object using a series of photographs taken on your device. On the next screen, we’re going to be asked to position our object that we’re scanning in the middle of the viewfinder on the screen. Try to find somewhere where you’ve got good, even lighting. I’m doing mine outdoors so the daylight is all around, and it might work better than perhaps doing it indoors where there could be dark shadows.

So, I’ve positioned my cuddly toy in the middle of my frame, and now I need to resize that box to make sure it’s all included in the scan. I’m simply going to drag out the edges if I need to. Here, the more accurate you are, the better because it will train your iPhone on what parts of the image to capture. Then, we’re going to press Start capture, and we’re going to have to do a process where we gradually move our device around the object fairly slowly and fairly smoothly. I’ll try to hold my phone as steady as I can as I move around my cuddly toy, and you can see there are white bars at the bottom in that preview lighting up as it’s going around. If any of the bars don’t light up and they stay gray, don’t panic. You can always go back and do a second loop to catch those areas, but it is important that they all go white eventually, so make sure you’re going nice and slowly and the object is fairly close to the camera to ensure they turn white.

Now, I’ve done that first complete loop; it’s then going to ask me to get a second loop from a different angle. Now, on some objects, it might ask you to flip the object upside down. For this particular one, it hasn’t, and it does vary, I found, based on what you’re scanning. For the second loop, it’s going to advise me to do it slightly lower down. So, I’m going to try and awkwardly crouch as I move my phone around the circle, capturing the lower half of my model. I’ll speed this loop up quickly for you, and now I’ve finished that one. As if by magic, it wants to do a third and final scan. This last scan, for me, is a top-down look at the object, and I want to make sure my phone is fairly close. I actually found I was holding it too far away at many times; I had to go back and do extra parts. But with that third and final loop complete (again, I sped it up for you here), we’re onto the processing stage.

Your phone is going to take all of the photographs that it just took during that scanning process and combine them on the device to make a 3D model. This does take quite a bit of time; for me, it took about 3 or 4 minutes. But while it’s going, you can tap on the Untitled object label and give it a name so it’s saved afterward. Let’s jump forward a few moments here until the processing is complete. Now, in Reality Composer, I’ve got my object there on a plain white background, and I can use a finger to rotate it 360° if I want to. I can then reprocess the image with the background scene included, so perhaps you want to capture the room you’re in; you can change that here if you want to. But for me, I want to view this in augmented reality, and with a simple tap of this button, I can now place that object right alongside the real one in my garden. I can use a finger to move the object around, and I can even pinch and scale it to make it bigger or smaller if I wanted to. You can see my cat pudding in the background is a bit unsure of what’s going on here, but he’s happy to stay and keep me company anyway.

The actual scan is incredibly good quality. As I get closer to my real object and my AR object, it’s really hard to tell them apart. The texture is there 100%, the shape, the colors, everything is there. Perhaps the lighting is slightly different; that might be the only giveaway. Of course, my cat in the background is a bit uncertain as to what’s going on here. So, let’s just use two fingers and pinch to make the model even bigger to hide my cat for a moment. From here, once you’ve had fun taunting your pets, you can then share that model to other apps. You can save it as a USDZ file, which will open in all of the Apple apps and plenty of other apps as well, or you can save it as a model with all of the photographs to then reprocess it on a Mac later.

I’m going to simply share my model; I can drop it into Keynote or Freeform or anywhere else that I found. So, this is a really simple technique to capture objects from the real world and use them on your phone. Think about all the possibilities this unlocks for you. You could be doing a room decoration, and you could be placing furniture around. You might have made some amazing modeling sculptures that you want to save and keep forever, even a Lego build that you want to treasure. It really is a brilliant feature, and when you start using these in apps like Freeform as well, it’s incredible the things you could do. Don’t forget to subscribe to my channel down below for hundreds more iPhone quick tips, and I’ll see you next time.

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