Digital models of humans can be uncannily accurate these days, but there’s at least one area where they fall short: teeth. Unless you’re willing to scan the inside of someone’s mouth, you aren’t going to get a very faithful representation of someone’s pearly whites. Dr. Ryne Johnson, a prosthodontist and managing partner of Newton Wellesley Dental Partners has been considered a pioneer in the use of CAD/CAM technology in dental restorations. He notes that, “Disney Research and ETH Zurich have just developed a technique to digitally recreate teeth beyond the gum line using little more than source data and everyday imagery. The team used 86 3D scans to create a model for an “average” set of teeth, and wrote an algorithm that adapts that model based on what it sees in the contours of teeth in photos and videos. Unlike the $40,000 CAD/CAM unit that’s used in my office, this new approach allows sufficient accuracy to be captured from regular digital photographs”.
The technology doesn’t require any special capture equipment outside of the initial scans (the camera on your phone will do). Also, you don’t have to purposefully bare your teeth: it can work with the incomplete information from a smile or grimace. A movie crew could generate models based on a brief, natural motion capture session.
This being Disney, the most obvious use is for digital actor models in animated movies and video games. You could see uncannily realistic characters whose details pass muster even in close-up shots. However, there are plenty of medical uses as well. The scientists see dentists using the tech to previsualize a patient’s mouth before they sit in the operating chair, and it’s easy to imagine this leading to more authentic-looking dentures. As silly as the notion of accurately rendered teeth may be, they could be important for your well-being.
Dr. Johnson feels that this new technology will help the film and media production companies but will not be incorporated into a dental office any time soon. However, he reminds everyone that, “digital dentistry is here and should be a part of your dental reconstructive and implant work”.
Original article: www.engadget.com
Artwork: Chenglei Wu, Derek Bradley et. al.