Crowd-Funding May Help Transform iPad Into 3D Scanner
September 18, 2013

Crowd-Funding May Help Transform iPad Into 3D Scanner

[ Watch the Video: Turn Your iPad Into A 3D Scanner ]

Michael Harper for - Your Universe Online

Software developers Occipital have launched a Kickstarter campaign to bring 3D scanning to the iPad.

The small, strap-on sensor plugs directly into the Apple tablet and begins taking 3D images of a three-dimensional space. Using this sensor, users can complete 3D models of a room or a specific object in that room. This model can then be saved and exported in a number of ways.

In the Kickstarter introductory video, users were seen scanning a chair in an antique store then sending this scan to another user who was able to see on their iPad how the chair would look in his/her space. Occipital calls the device the Structure Sensor, and the potential of this device goes beyond simple home decor.

The Structure Sensor is made of an anodized aluminum chassis and packs in app-controlled infrared LEDs. These optics are able to understand the distance between the scanner and objects in a room. The software on the iPad can then digitize these elements and export them as a CAD model or a model for 3D printing. In other words, with the Structure Sensor, someone who wants to print a copy of a household item only needs to scan it with his/her iPad before sending it to a 3D printer.

In the Kickstarter video, a women is seen carefully circling a statue, capturing the 3D model on her iPad, then printing a miniature version of the statue on a MakerBot 3D printer.

Even MakerBot’s jovial CEO Bre Pettis gave a comment to the Occipital team, saying: "We can't wait to play with one of these around the Makerbot office.”

The algorithms and other software that powers the Structure Sensor once powered the first version of the Microsoft Kinect. The Occipital team say they were inspired to create the Structure Sensor after creating 3D models of a room with a Kinect sensor powered by a high-end desktop.

“We mapped a small indoor environment using the sensor and some prototype software. After tripping over the Kinect’s cord a few times, we realized that needing a high-end desktop CPU meant that this amazing technology was never going to make its way to everyday life,” reads the Kickstarter page.

The Structure Sensor straps on to the top of the iPad and has a tail of a cord, which plugs into Apple’s Lightning port. The sensor won’t be an iOS only device, however. Occipital wants hackers to dip into the source code and use the Structure Sensor in a number of new and creative ways. Backers will receive a “hacker cable,” which can be used to plug the sensor into other devices and the open-source code will allow developers to begin playing with the sensor with many other devices, reports Cnet's Brian Bennett.

Being able to digitize objects in a real space opens up an entirely new world of possibilities. Families can take 3D scans of their favorite vacation spots to create a more interactive sort of photo album. The Structure Sensor also opens up new possibilities in augmented reality. The device will ship with a demo game in which users can play a game of virtual fetch with a small digitized pet amongst objects in the room. The ball will bounce off furniture in the room and the pet can run underneath tables and chairs to find the ball.

At $349, the Structure Sensor isn’t exactly cheap, but it does arrive with all the cords and codes needed to hack into the device or simply plug it in and watch it work. At the time of this writing, 823 people have backed this campaign raising nearly $300,000. Occipital started with a goal of $100,000 and still has another 44 days remaining in the campaign, which ends on Nov 1. The first devices are expected to ship in February.

TOP OF THE LINE DESKTOP 3D SCANNER: MakerBot Digitizer Desktop 3D Scanner