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5 Best Kinect 3D Scanner Software Tools

Tom Will
Oct 26, 2019

With a Kinect and some software, you can make a decent 3D model of just about anything! Read on for our selection of the best Kinect 3D scanning software!

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Contents

Kinect 3D Scanner Software What Is 3D Scanning?

3D scanning a bottle
3D scanning a bottle (Source: GoMeasure3D)

3D scanning allows you to take a physical object and convert it into a digitalized three-dimensional file. The trick is getting a good representation of that real-word object on a computer, one that can be viewed and manipulated as needed. With a quality 3D model, one can print duplicates on a 3D printer or animate it in a game or a movie.

Modern 3D scanning is accomplished using a variety of techniques. For example, we can scan a laser across an object and measure the deformation of the laser light and, thus, the object. Alternatively, we can take a series of photographs of an object and, through software, render a 3D model. Lastly, we can use a combination of cameras and sensors to view the object and register depth, creating our model.

This final method is what’s used by the Xbox Kinect, which employs a combination of cameras and an IR rangefinder. On that note, let’s explore the best software tools for scanning with the Kinect!

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Kinect 3D Scanner Software Accommodating the Kinect

A 3D body scan using the Kinect
A 3D body scan using the Kinect (Source: Nurollāh Tatar / YouTube)

Software capable of working with the Kinect has come and gone over the years. The device was first released for the Xbox in 2010, and matching 3D scanning software followed around 2013 when Skanect, by Occipital, and Shapify, by Shapify.me, were both released. Some of the software in use back in those days is now devoid of support both from the respective companies and the community, so the full list of software available has been trimmed back, removing those without support.

History aside, there are few things that software must or should have before you might consider using it with your Kinect. In this article, we consider the following criteria.

Criteria

  • Scan quality: There are many factors that contribute to a quality scan, including the number of polygons created in the model, excellent lighting, and the power of your CPU or GPU. In order to properly compare various software tools, we assume near-perfect conditions, like good lighting and the presence of any required hardware.
  • Ease of use: How easy is it to achieve a scan using the software? Some applications guide you through the process while others have a non-intuitive workflow. The more intuitive, the higher the rating.
  • Cost: Is it free? If not, what does it cost? The lower the cost, the higher the value (within reason).
  • Support and community: Are the software and the workflow actively supported by the company and community? What options are there when it comes to instructions, tutorials, and tips?
  • Computer requirements: What does it take to achieve a good scan when using the minimum requirements of the software? In general, unless the result is worth it, it’s nice when the requirements aren’t too demanding.
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1

Kinect 3D Scanner Software 3D Scan

Easy to use and scan, Microsoft's 3D Scan works well
Easy to use and scan, Microsoft's 3D Scan works well (Source: Microsoft )

Microsoft saw this market take off and they had to jump in, so they created 3D Scan, 3D Builder, and 3D Viewer to stay relevant. The software used to work with both the Kinect version 1 (Xbox) and version 2 (Xbox One), but Microsoft dropped support for version 1 after it went out of production. There are still many version 1 Kinects on the market, so this solution may cost you a little more, unless you already have a version 2 Kinect.

The software is available, along with all the drivers, on the Windows store. There’s also a good deal of documentation to support it, making this a relatively easy solution to get up and going. The workflow is very straightforward and scan quality is good.

The support from Microsoft and from the community of users is active and there are many tutorials on the net, so getting help or advice is easy.

  • Scan quality: Good
  • Ease of use: Good
  • Cost: Free
  • Support: Very good, although Microsoft removed support for the V1 Kinect
  • Computer Requirements: Good
    • Windows 8 or later (64-bit)
    • Dual-core 3.1-GHz processor
    • 4 GB of RAM
    • Nvidia graphics card with CUDA capabilities, or Kinect Fusion compatible GPU
  • Kinect version: Version 2
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2

Kinect 3D Scanner Software Skanect

Skanect from Occipital
Skanect from Occipital (Source: Occipital)

Skanect from Occipital has been in this space since the Kinect was first used as a 3D scanning solution, and they remain an active player. They’ve even added many more scanners to the list of those that work with Skanect, and both the version 1 and version 2 Kinects still work.

Skanect offers a free version of the software and it performs just as well as the $149 version, but the number of polygons for the export is limited to 5,000, which has a pretty big impact on the quality of most models. Many claim the limited polygon version looked worse than with other software, even though the model displayed in the software looked very good.

Skanect has a scan workflow built into the software that’s easy and intuitive. You just follow along, setting your scan size and scanning the object. It even has good post-processing tools that will help you fix areas that didn’t scan correctly, including stray points, which almost every scan has. The software also offers helpful feedback as you scan, indicating which points the software is able to read and those it’s having trouble with.

The software doesn’t require a GPU, using the CPU instead, although you’ll be adding time to any post-processing tasks. After you scan and post-process, you can export in OBJ, PLY, STL, or VRML formats, but here’s where the limitation of the free version bites you back, with the limitation of only 5,000 polygons.

Skanect has great support, like 3D Scan. Both the company and an active community are writing tutorials to help you get started and continue on your 3D scanning journey.

  • Scan quality:
    • Free version: Good (but limited)
    • Paid version: Excellent
  • Ease of use: Excellent
  • Cost: Free (for the limited version) or $149
  • Support: Excellent
  • Computer Requirements: Good
    • Windows 7 or later (64-bit)
    • Quad-core processor
    • 2 GB of RAM
    • (Recommended) Nvidia graphics card supporting CUDA 2.0, with at least 1 GB of memory
  • Kinect version: Version 1 or version 2
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3

Kinect 3D Scanner Software Shapify

Live scan with Artec 3D's Shapify
Live scan with Artec 3D's Shapify (Source: CNET / YouTube)

When you first look at Artec 3D’s Shapify, you’ll probably find these great-looking “mini-me” prints. In fact, using Shapify, you can scan yourself and upload the model to Artec 3D, after which they’ll print the model and send it back to you, in color! Indeed, one of the reasons they look so great is that the scans include color. The scan quality is about the same as other packages, but this option makes it very attractive.

The software is so good that it’s used commercially in worldwide walk-in scanning locations, where people can go to get themselves scanned and have their own mini-me printed, on the spot. The quality of the scans is very good, even with the lower-quality cameras in the version 1 Kinect.

The last software update was in 2014, so there isn’t a good deal of support on the scanning side with the Kinect. As a result, the software only supports Kinect version 1. Since Artec 3D’s focus seems to be more on the industrial side, there isn’t a very good support network within the community.

  • Scan quality: Very good
  • Ease of use: Excellent
  • Cost: Free
  • Support: Poor
  • Computer Requirements: Good
    • Windows 7 or later (64-bit)
    • Dual-core processor
    • 8 GB of RAM
    • Integrated Graphics Card
  • Kinect version: Version 1
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4

Kinect 3D Scanner Software ReconstructMe

ReconstructMe software output after a scan
ReconstructMe software output after a scan (Source: ReconstructMe)

ReconstructMe offers a free version of their software if you use it in a non-commercial manner. The software can be used with either the Kinect version 1 or version 2.

The workflow is a bit more complicated than with other tools, leaving a steep learning curve, but there is some power under the hood if you’re willing to learn. After scanning, you get a decent model that’s a bit coarser than other examples. Export file types include PLY, STL, and OBJ.

ReconstructMe’s website looks a bit dated and doesn’t seem to be maintained on a regular basis, making the support from the company suspect if you were to need assistance. The minimum OS requirements list Windows XP…. well, enough said.

  • Scan quality: Very good
  • Ease of use: OK
  • Cost: Free
  • Support: Poor
  • Computer Requirements: Good
    • Windows XP, Vista, 7 or 8 (64-bit)
    • Dual-core processor
    • 2 GB of RAM
    • ATI Radeon HD 5700 or NVIDIA GeForce GT240 or better
  • Kinect version: Version 1 or version 2
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5

Kinect 3D Scanner Software Scene Capture

Faro Scene Capture's UI
Faro Scene Capture's UI (Source: Faro)

Scene Capture from Faro started back in 2013 as Scenect, indicating its roots in the Kinect scene. Since then, Faro, heavy into 3D measurement and scanning, has added support for many other scanning cameras. They offer a free license with no limit to the size of the scan (except your disk space). And when we say no limit, we mean it – Faro even did some 3D mapping with a Kinect mounted to the front of a car, collecting over 60 million data points. The name change to Scene Capture takes on a whole new meaning, as you see entire workshops being scanned with this software.

The workflow is a bit more cumbersome than other solutions, but it works well. It has a “live tracking” mode, as most software does, but it also offers a mode that imports a video and computes a 3D model. The software also has very good post-processing tools that can remove stray points, fix issues, and adjust color.

Support from Faro looks very good, but most of the community support and tutorials are back from 2013-2015. We aren’t sure who is still using the Kinect with Scene Capture, but this software is very powerful, so it’s worth a try. Just watch out for the very high minimum requirements.

  • Scan quality: Very good
  • Ease of use: OK
  • Cost: Free
  • Support: Good
  • Computer Requirements: Poor
    • Windows 7 or later (64-bit)
    • Quad-core processor, at least 2 GHz
    • 32 GB of RAM
    • ATI Radeon HD 5700 or NVIDIA GeForce GT240 or better
    • Dedicated Graphics Card: OpenGL 4.1 or higher, at least 4 GB of memory
  • Kinect version: Version 1 or version 2
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Kinect 3D Scanner Software Conclusion

Using the Kinect as a body scanner
Using the Kinect as a body scanner (Source: Microsoft)

So which software should you choose?

The answer really depends on what you want to use the software for and how much money you want to spend. For instance, Scene Capture is great for scanning large areas, while Skanect excels at smaller objects but has the limitation of a high price point to unlock full-resolution exports.

The Kinect isn’t a dedicated 3D scanning unit, so the quality of any of the above programs will be limited by that factor. Still, limited quality is better than not having a scanner at all, and with some playing around, who knows what possibilities you could unlock!

If you think it’s time to move past the Kinect and upgrade your scanning workflow, have a look at our list of what we think are the best 3D scanners on the market.

(Lead image source: Microsoft)

License: The text of "5 Best Kinect 3D Scanner Software Tools" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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