If you can scan a magazine and print it on paper, why not do the same with objects? This week, SoftKinetic, the gesture and object recognition company that makes the groundbreaking Creative Lab Sensz 3D camera and the camera in the Meta Pro, announced a partnership with 3D printing leader Makerbot. Under the partnership, SoftKinetic will develop a 3D scanner that works with Makerbot's printers and software.
Visiting SoftKinetic's hotel suite at CES 2014, we had a chance to see 3D scanning in action when a company rep scanned our head and torso into a PC. Though the camera he used was one of their existing 3D webcams and the third-party scanning application is not the one Makerbot will be using, we saw what the technology is capable of. As we stood perfectly still, the rep moved the camera around our head and torso in much the same way a smartphone user would move a phone to take a panoramic image. We had to take off our glasses, because the camera, which was designed for gesture recognition, has difficulty capturing transparent surfaces such as lenses.
After a few seconds, the rep had completed gathering our image and the software rendered our image. As we watched the preview image on-screen changed from a colorless green preview to a full color, highly-accurate rendering of our head and upper torso. If we had wanted to and had time, we could have turned that image into a real-world model using a MakerBot Replicator.
It's easy to envision a number of use cases for 3D scanning, from making a model of a person or animal to copying a small object like a screw or a figurine. As the price of 3D printers drops and the quality improves, it's only a matter of time before 3D scanning goes mainstream. SoftKinetics depth perception cameras and software could help make that happen.