In researching architecture graphics software, the boffins at the University of Manchester have stumbled on a new low-cost method for generating game environment textures - and they plan to give it away once it is finished.
The team says they can create detailed textures using just a digital camera and their proprietary software.
As long as the camera in question has a flash, the app can get to work, comparing two pictures - one with a flash and one without, and working on the assumption that the brightness of a surface is related to its 3D position.
According the developer, the naked eye can't tell the difference between laser scanned images and their cheaper creations.
Team member Dr Mashhuda Glencross told the Manchester Evening News: "It's a really low cost and easy way to get depth information.
"We plan on releasing it as a free application from our web page as the technique has already been presented at a top conference.
"It has attracted attention from a computer games company and a firm that was creating a dome projection movie for planetariums about Mayan civilisations.
"We initially developed the technique for the architecture industry, where it would be used for visualising buildings and adding surface detail for increased realism.