Doly lets you generate 3D product videos from your iPhone

AniML, the French startup behind a new 3D capture app called Doly, wants to create the PhotoRoom of product videos, sort of. If you’re selling sneakers on an online marketplace or need to create Instagram ads for your direct-to-consumer wares, Doly helps you generate 3D models with your phone and turn them into professional-looking product videos.

While video creation is notoriously hard, generating a 3D model is even harder. That’s why the AniML team has focused on simplifying the experience. They want to turn 3D capture into a mainstream technology, starting by packaging it into an iPhone app.

Here’s how 3D capture with Doly works: The user points their phone camera at the product and physically moves around it to capture it in 3D. Behind the scenes, the app grabs still images and sends them to the cloud. AniML has built a reconstruction pipeline using something called Gaussian splatting to turn these images into a realistic 3D model.

3D models are traditionally created with a collection of points in 3D space, some 2D texture projected on top of these surfaces and lighting effects. Gaussian splatting is an entirely new rendering pipeline that involves estimating a 3D point cloud from a set of 2D images using a pre-trained AI model.

“Our starting point was a technological finding: AI had just arrived in the 3D world. So people at Facebook, but even more at Google, were doing research and wrote a fairly important research paper on something called NeRF,” AniML co-founder and CEO, Rémi Rousseau, told TechCrunch. “It’s a new paradigm in which you try to reconstruct 3D by letting machine learning do the job.”

“You’re no longer working in polygon-based 3D, but now you’re in neural-based 3D,” he added.

Gaussian splatting isn’t exactly the same as NeRF, but it’s a sort of descendant 3D modelling technology, as Rousseau tells it.

So that’s the technical part. AniML then focused on finding a use case that could grab users from day one. E-commerce companies were the obvious choice for a creation tool for 3D models.

What else does the app offer? After capturing a 3D model, Doly users can browse a template library to choose a 3D scene for their object to be integrated into. This can be a simple 3D rotation with a plain background or something more dramatic, in terms of marketing staging, such as the camera slowly approaching the object and switching to different angles.

If a customer likes the result, they have the option to buy the video from the app and download it for use elsewhere.

Image Credits: AniML

Rousseau previously founded two VR companies — including Mimesys, a startup that was acquired by Magic Leap in 2019. His co-founder Pierre Pontevia also has an interesting track record as he sold a company to the 3D tools giant Autodesk; and another to the 3D content development platform, Unity.

So far AniML has raised $2 million, with Adjacent leading the seed round. The startup also participated in AI Grant, the startup accelerator led by Nat Friedman and Daniel Gross. Also investing are Kima Ventures and several angel investors, including Julien Chaumond from Hugging Face; Nicolas Steegman and François Lagunas who previously founded Stupeflix; Alban Denoyel of Sketchfab fame; Bertrand Schmitt; Thibaud Elziere; and Vincent Nallatamby. We’re also told Bpifrance contributed to a portion of this round with a grant.

It will be interesting to see whether big brands, second-hand resellers and other e-commerce professionals embrace 3D rendered videos for upcoming campaigns and online listings. But it’s already nice to see that you might not need a professional video recording studio to create compelling product visuals thanks to artificial intelligence.

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