Common Sense Review
Updated December 2015

123D Catch

Build digital 3-D objects out of photos; look elsewhere for support
Common Sense Rating 3
Teacher Rating
Not Yet Rated
  • Take photos from within the 123D Catch app.
  • A complete photo set ready to upload
  • Review the finished 3-D model (after waiting 15 minutes).
  • Add a name, description, and tags, and save the model.
  • On the 123D website, exporting a Catch model for printing or importing into another app.
Super simple to use, and the resulting 3-D objects are extremely cool.
It can be tricky getting the right shots, and it takes time to process the photos.
Bottom Line
Ever wanted to make a physical sculpture of your favorite pet, favorite object, or anything else? Now you can.
Mark Chen
Common Sense Reviewer
Common Sense Rating 3
Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return? 4

It’s exceptionally engaging to take photos of an object and then suddenly have a 3-D version of it to manipulate on your device.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer? 3

A quick guide on how to take good photos helps new users get into the app quickly. Students learn about photography through trial and error, digital manipulation, and sharing.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students? 3

The website and blog feature how-to videos and a help center, but user forums are hard to find and threadbare.

About our ratings and privacy evaluation.
How Can Teachers Use It?

Teachers should be certain to plan their use of 123D Catch around a few constraints. First, using this app requires space, and its success depends heavily on the object being photographed, whether you're capturing desktop objects or large outdoor features such as a car (or even a building). This means that a classroom where the students are allowed some autonomy would be appropriate. Second, it takes time to take a set of photos, and waiting for the photos to be stitched together to form a 3-D object takes the servers at least 10 minutes. This means lessons should be planned to let students work on other tasks while waiting. Finally, the app requires an Internet connection to upload the photos to the processing servers; plan accordingly.

If all that can be satisfied, individual students or small groups could have a lot of fun learning to use the app as part of a larger curriculum based on 3-D making. The 3D files could be exported to another app for further manipulation and then sent off to be 3-D-printed, adding another useful tool for real-world physical creations to an engineering or art class.

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What's It Like?

123D Catch is an easy-to-learn app that creates 3-D models out of photos of everyday objects; just point, click, and wait. Using a tablet or phone (or even a PC with a webcam), users take photos of an object from a bunch of different angles. The app then creates a digital 3-D version of the object that users can share with others and save to their user profile. The processing isn't immediate, and it requires an active Internet connection as the photos are uploaded to a server for analysis and stitching. Nevertheless, 123D Catch is a powerful app that places Microsoft's Photosynth technology into a consumer product, and it fits well with "making" and 3-D printing.

Using 123D Catch is as easy as taking photos. Composition, lighting, and contrast are all important for a successful “catch,” and the in-app guide and Web tutorials help users plan and take their shots. Once their projects have been created, users can save them, make them public, and share them via social media. Users can also check out other people's projects and comment on them. On the 123D website, users can download the 3-D models of projects to then import into other 3-D apps or send off to a 3-D printer. Yes, this means that, now, anyone can make their cat a desk ornament.

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Is It Good For Learning?

123D Catch basically does one thing, and it does it exceptionally well. Most of the learning involved will be around general photography skills, such as making sure there's a good backdrop, good lighting, and so on. Students might in fact need to retake shots to improve their catches, making this app a great tool for learning through doing and gaining insight from trial and error.

The 123D website features how-to videos and posts with lots of tips and tricks. It also includes information on how to manipulate the digital 3-D files, including how to correct for errors or how to send off a file to a 3-D printer. Unfortunately, user forums for all the 123D suite of tools seem lacking, focusing instead on user-creation galleries that feature individual projects and discussion threads. The emphasis, in other words, is on learning through creation and sharing rather than general help-seeking and support. While that's encouraging in its own way, it's not an especially deep way to learn about the technical and design work at hand.

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See how teachers are using 123D Catch