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123D Catch

Build digital 3D objects out of photos; look elsewhere for support

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Subjects & Skills


Price: Free
Platforms: Android, iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, Windows

Pros: Super simple to use, and the resulting 3D objects are extremely cool.

Cons: 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.

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 3D 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 3D making. The 3D files could be exported to another app for further manipulation and then sent off to be 3D-printed, adding another useful tool for real-world physical creations to an engineering or art class.

123D Catch is an easy-to-learn app that creates 3D 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 3D 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 3D 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 3D models of projects to then import into other 3D apps or send off to a 3D printer. Yes, this means that, now, anyone can make their cat a desk ornament.

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 3D files, including how to correct for errors or how to send off a file to a 3D 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.

Learning Rating

Overall Rating

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


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.


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

Common Sense reviewer

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