Occipital Opens the Way to Low Cost 3D Scanning

3D ContentOccipital aims to provide the means to acquire, view and manipulate 3D content at low cost to a wide audience.  The firm has announced their Structure Sensor and a Kickstarter campaign to fund the Sensor’s initial production.  I checked their Kickstarter site in preparing this article and found that the firm had received nearly $720,000 in pledges in response to their goal of $100,000.  Clearly, given the prototypes that Occipital has shown (see video below) and their successful Kickstarter campaign, the firm is well on their way to delivering an affordable 3D scanning device.

The Structure Sensor (photo below) is an accessory that attaches electrically and mechanically to an Apple iPad tablet with a Lightning connector.  Occipital is also making available the Structure SDK to allow developers to create applications.  Occipital notes that the Sensor can stream data to any iOS device that uses the Lightning connector – such as iPad mini, iPhone 5, iPhone 5c, iPhone 5s, etc.  Occipital also intends to provide open source drivers for other OS platforms including Windows, Android, OS X and Linux.  The firm points out that the Structure Sensor is the first device to provide 3D scanning capability for mobile devices.

Structure Sensor1

Source: Occipital

The Occipital Structure Sensor is based on the successful Primesense sensor technology employed in the Microsoft Kinect device.  I reported earlier this year in Insight Media’s Display Daily that Microsoft had announced availability of the Kinect SDK 1.7 that enabled 3D scanning capability using the Kinect sensor.  The specs of the Structure Sensor (below) describe a pretty capable 3D scanning device.

Structure Sensor Specs

Source: Occipital

The structure sensor has a range of 0.4 to 3.5 meters allowing the device to capture 3D models from small objects to a room-sized scene as illustrated below.

Structure Sensor2

Source: Occipital

The Occipital team has also developed demo iOS applications that will ship with the Structure Sensor including:

  • Object Scanner:  Capture models of objects and export them to CAD software or for 3D printing.  You can also upload models directly to Shapeways.com for 3D printing.
  • Room Capture:  Easily capture a 3D model of a room by simply spinning around with your Structure Sensor and iPad.  Then, tap any two points to retrieve distances.
  • Fetch:  A virtual pet to play fetch with in the physical world around you.
  • Ball Physics:  An augmented reality demo where virtual balls interact with the dense geometry of the world.

The video below provides a good deal of background about Occipital and the Structure Sensor, and also illustrates several of the demo applications for the device.  Occipital hopes to be shipping their initial Structure Sensor devices to their Kickstarter supporters for the 2013 holiday season.   It’s pretty clear that going forward consumers can expect to have mobile devices that can serve as powerful 3D input devices.  – Phil Wright


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