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As 3D technology continues grabbing headlines we are starting to see some very interesting photo products and services pop up. Much of the attention of late has centered on the evolution of 3D printers, such as the technology that MakerBot has brought to market over the last few years. While fascinating, MakerBot ultimately has little to do with digital imaging so we thought we’d steer your attention to consumer digital imaging and how to turn your image files into some impressive looking 3D products.

Lenticular Prints

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With regard to strictly 3D photo services, let’s start with what has been our favorite 3D photo tech since it emerged well over a decade ago, and that’s TracerPix, a very unique printing service for consumers that brings so-called “lenticular” 3D printing technology to the masses with some stunning results.

Tracer Imaging, based in White Plains, New York has been offering their TracerPix service through Target Photo for several years now. Trust us when we tell you, it is a service that adds more than just a little life to the standard printed photo (think of the old Cracker Jack tilt cards but taken to another level).

In describing the effect, the TracerPix lenticular prints essentially can display 3D images with up to three images becoming visible, 45 frames of video or animation or a single still image with a zoom effect that can zero in on a particular part of the picture simply by tilting the print back and forth. Once on the Target website, you upload the images you’d like to have combined as one print or, if you’re doing the zoom effect, you drag a red box over the part of the image you’d like the effect to zoom in on when you tilt the print. Loading a video clip or the multiple image effect works in the same fashion.

Fuji’s Low-Key 3D Service

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Though the company did very little to promote either the product or the service, Fuji came to market a few years ago with both a 3D digital camera, the FinePix Real 3D W3, as well as a 3D print service. The camera ($299) featured 10MP, 3x optical zoom and dual lenses for the 3D capture capability for both stills and HD video.

The print service allows you to upload the images you capture with the camera to the site and they’ll mail you back (five days) the 3D prints. It is a bit pricey, as a 5×7 costs roughly $5.29. The results we eyed at a CES show from a few years ago we’re excellent however. Panasonic (Lumix ZS), Sony (Cyber-shot TX), Nikon (Coolpix P 520) and Olympus (SP 810UZ) also all have 3D camera models they brought to market over the last five or six years but no word from Fuji if their service will print digital images files from these cameras.

3D Mini Me’s

Artec-Group

There are several 3D figurine services available that will turn a photo of someone into a small figurine or bobblehead and the two that we think are getting it right are Shapify and 3DMe.

Looking at Shapify first, the company behind the tech is called the Artec Group and they recently launched their very unique service called Shapify.Me that allows you to create a remarkably accurate 3D figurine of yourself from a full body scan from the company’s proprietary 3D scanning system.

Problem with this one is there are currently only eight locations in the U.S. that offer the Shapify.Me service. However, the good news is the company just came to market with a very affordable new kit dubbed Shapify.Pro that they are offering to those that may want to offer this service. Shapify.Pro is essentially designed for small businesses and retailers and uses a Microsoft Kinect sensor array to do a full body scan of the customer in 3D. The scans are then uploaded to the Shapify website, and figurines are delivered to the business or customer within five days.

The other 3D figurine service, dubbed 3DMe, essentially does the same thing but this one has a web app element. Once on the site you will be asked to upload a photograph of your face, taken from the front. Next, the system will automatically integrate your face onto any of a variety of characters – they are currently pushing the old Ghostbusters movie (celebrating the film’s 30th anniversary) but various other options are available as well (superheroes, sports, etc).

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If you’re not interested in ordering the figurine when you’re done with the process, you can simply share the 3D model you’ve created of yourself on both Facebook and Twitter. They also offer the option to get in on the business end with a 3D figurine photobooth, a plug-and-play way to get into the 3D figurine business.

Okay, not exactly 3D prints but again, some fun 3D results from your digital image files.

Crystal Clear

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Lastly, 3D photo crystals are catching on and the only surprise here is …what took so long? If you haven’t ever had one of these done we’re fairly confident in saying we think you’ll find them absolutely captivating.

A non-invasive laser beam is used to recreate an engraved 3D replica of the photo of your choice inside a clear crystal block. When viewed from any angle the intricate design is viewed much like a three dimensional sculpture inside the crystal.

Simply Google 3D Photo Crystals and you’ll find a wide variety of sites offering the service. We like the work done by Crystal Prints  and 5D-Foto. Again, this can get a bit pricey but you can get a small photo crystal done for around $60.

While 3D imaging tech has remained in the shadows the last decade, as you can see, there are some fun and interesting products and services out there – you just have to dig a bit to find them.

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