Sick of your simís hair cut? Detest that dorkey flap on Zeison Sha Armor? Pray for Princess Peachís skirt to be a bit more trim? Well good news! You can now fix any object in your game- or make your own!

Thatís right- creating meshes, or the shape of objects in your game, is no longer a programmers- only task. Since the dawn of 3D graphics, creating shapes has been a cumbersome and slow operation. There are two general methods: using a program to combine already known shapes, or scanning clay models. The first option often involves moving hundreds of points by hand so that the final product wonít look like a bunch of shapes sumshed together. The programs require lots of time to learn how to use because they are so complex. The other option is almost as bad; 3D scanners are horribly expensive- most estimates range from $20,000 to $100,000!

The answer is simple; 3Scan, a 3D scanner that costs under $40 and uses everyday items. Developed near Roswell, this system will meet all your alien ship designing needs. Got a turntable, camera, light, computer, and some white paper? Youíre in business!

3Scan differs from the traditional Ďscannerí in two ways. First, it was designed to be made from household parts so itís super cheap. Also, while most scanners use lasers, which are not very common, 3Scan uses a digital camera, which completely changes how it calculates the shape of the object. The basic idea is to look at the object from different angles. By placing many two-dimensional silhouettes of the object at different angles relative to the center of the object you can get a rough estimate of where the object is in three-dimensional space.

So, how to get started? Well, the setup is fairly easy: just put you object the turntable (an old record player works well) and paste white paper in the background. Put your comera on a tripod or a stack of books so that itís steady and make sure the background of the picture is completely white. It helps to turn off the lights and illuminate the background because contrast is key for the computer to decide which part of the picture is the object and which part is the paper. Measure the distance from the camera to the object. Also take a picture of the ruler across the image to determine the width in inches. Now use the video feature on the camera, turn on the turntable, and record until the object turns around at least once.

Then all you have to do is input the two inch measurements you took and download the video file onto the computer. A program changes the video into separate files, each showing the object from a different angle. Then 3Scan puts all the pictures together and volia! Your model!

Of course, this system isnít without itís quirks. Although it is fairly simple to imput the inch measurements and the file name, getting the file paths setup, which is basically Ďinstallingí it, takes a little programmer know-how. Calibration is also tricky without precise equipment, so 3Scan takes a long time to run and the model is still a bit fuzzy. Also, most games use special formats for their objects, which can really be very un-friendly for would-be-modders.

Still, 3Scan is the first step in the direction of liberating us all from default designs. As users start using systems like 3Scan, game designers will make it easier for us to upload our new patterns into the game. So who knows? Maybe someday Mario will wear a sombrero.