A simple method for measuring the surface shape of an object using structured lighting is described. Whilst many such methods have been proposed in the past, most have suffered from the need for sophisticated image analysis and pattern recognition processes to extract data from the resulting images. The method presented here requires only the simplest image processing functions and a relatively small amount of computation. It is suitable for implementation on a microcomputer. Although originally developed for a medical application, the method has wide applicability and might be suitable, for example, for industrial quality control. © 1986.