July 26, 2014

Head in the Point Clouds

Sam Pfeifle

Sam Pfeifle was Editor of SPAR Point Group from September 2010 - February 2013.

Sowing the South with scanners

Looks like the Georgia Bureau of Investigation is done messing around, jumping in with both feet and using laser scanning for crime scene documentation now as a matter of course. 

Such is the revelation provided by this story from the Times Free Press, which has been one of the few mainstream publications to really get 3D scanning and the benefits it can offer. The publication did an extensive piece on how the Chattanooga PD is using laser scanning late last year.

 
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation trains at a local high school. Photo thanks to the Times Free Press.

Not only is the Georgia BI in the process of training agents across the state in laser scanning, using an area high school as a test bed, but the company tells the Free Press it's planning on doubling its stock of scanners over the next year:

The GBI already owns four scanners, which cost about $160,000 each, a price that includes the computer software, extensive training and a contract for annual calibrations.

This year, the GBI plans to buy four more cameras, which will put it ahead of most law enforcement agencies across the nation, said Jerry Scott, special agent in charge of the Calhoun field office.

Anyone else know of an agency sporting eight C-10s?

Special Agent Steven Foster touts the scanner's ability to "put the jury into the crime scene," but it will be interesting to see how the increasing use of 3D fly throughs and animations affect actual trials. I think one of the commenters on the Chattanooga story makes a good point: As prosecutors become more and more comfortable presenting 3D data as evidence, defense attorneys are going to have to counter with experts in 3D of their own. And those experts cost money. Is technology making it more difficult for people to mount successful defenses of their innocence?

That probably remains to be seen, and Leica's Tony Grissim makes the good point as well that this 3D data merely gets everyone closer and closer to the truth, and that innocent people will be able to use this data as much to show their innocence as prosecutors will be able to use it to prove guilt. 

Except that the technology is really only on one side. It's always the authorities who decide whether to do the scanning or not. The defense can't scan the crime scene after the fact. It would seem that eventually there will need to be standards created for when and why a crime scene is scanned. 

Will defense attorneys eventually be able to argue that negligence was shown in NOT scanning a crime scene? If the technology really offers the benefits we think it does, I don't think that's an unreasonable eventuality. 


Permanent link

Sowing the South with scanners

Looks like the Georgia Bureau of Investigation is done messing around, jumping in with both feet and using laser scanning for crime scene documentation now as a matter of course. 

Such is the revelation provided by this story from the Times Free Press, which has been one of the few mainstream publications to really get 3D scanning and the benefits it can offer. The publication did an extensive piece on how the Chattanooga PD is using laser scanning late last year.

 
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation trains at a local high school. Photo thanks to the Times Free Press.

Not only is the Georgia BI in the process of training agents across the state in laser scanning, using an area high school as a test bed, but the company tells the Free Press it's planning on doubling its stock of scanners over the next year:

The GBI already owns four scanners, which cost about $160,000 each, a price that includes the computer software, extensive training and a contract for annual calibrations.

This year, the GBI plans to buy four more cameras, which will put it ahead of most law enforcement agencies across the nation, said Jerry Scott, special agent in charge of the Calhoun field office.

Anyone else know of an agency sporting eight C-10s?

Special Agent Steven Foster touts the scanner's ability to "put the jury into the crime scene," but it will be interesting to see how the increasing use of 3D fly throughs and animations affect actual trials. I think one of the commenters on the Chattanooga story makes a good point: As prosecutors become more and more comfortable presenting 3D data as evidence, defense attorneys are going to have to counter with experts in 3D of their own. And those experts cost money. Is technology making it more difficult for people to mount successful defenses of their innocence?

That probably remains to be seen, and Leica's Tony Grissim makes the good point as well that this 3D data merely gets everyone closer and closer to the truth, and that innocent people will be able to use this data as much to show their innocence as prosecutors will be able to use it to prove guilt. 

Except that the technology is really only on one side. It's always the authorities who decide whether to do the scanning or not. The defense can't scan the crime scene after the fact. It would seem that eventually there will need to be standards created for when and why a crime scene is scanned. 

Will defense attorneys eventually be able to argue that negligence was shown in NOT scanning a crime scene? If the technology really offers the benefits we think it does, I don't think that's an unreasonable eventuality. 


Permanent link

This LightSquared battle is getting nasty

Last week, it looked like the Defense Appropriations Bill had squashed any hopes terrestrial 4G provider LightSquared might have had of getting off the ground. I wondered if the fight might be over. Turns out, it was just getting interesting. 

This week, things got a little nasty, with Grover Norquist wading into the fight, and Sen. Chuck Grassley intimating he felt as though he was being offered something akin to a bribe to grease the skids for LightSquared. 

Let's start with Norquist. The anti-tax crusader joined with Kelly William Cobb, of an organization called Digital Liberty, which "advocates for a consumer-driven market free from heavy regulation or taxation of the Internet, technology, telecommunications, video games, and media," to pen a piece for The Hill, which is well read in Washington circles. Its title? "FCC can prevent crisis by moving on Spectrum now." I'm not entirely sure why spectrum is capitalized there, but let's ignore that for the moment. The thrust of the piece is that wireless companies, and their consumers, need more spectrum on which to transmit phone calls, media, communications of all sorts, and that the government is standing in the way. 

There are specious arguments throughout the piece (the early leader in the clubhouse was "they helped kill the AT&T/T-Mobile merger aimed at using spectrum more efficiently to expand coverage and capacity." Really? I thought AT&T just wanted to make a whole bunch more cash and limit my carrier options - silly me), but they quickly come around to LightSquared, which, given the timing of the piece, was likely the whole point:

Yet, when the GPS industry and federal departments complained that LightSquared’s network could interfere with some GPS devices, the Commission quickly quieted, cowered, and slowed the company’s plans. The GPS industry used influence with bureaucrats in the federal government to curb progress, even leading to the Pentagon and other agencies leaking a preliminary report on spectrum interference in an effort to tarnish LightSquared’s public image. While progress has been made by setting up a working group between stakeholders, the Commission has largely bowed to this outside pressure. Instead, they should be working to facilitate a solution. 

Well, I guess that's one way to look at it. In the very next paragraph, the authors acknowledge that this is a technology issue, not really a political issue, but they, themselves, are making it a political issue. Who said the FCC isn't trying to figure out a solution? 

The Department of Defense put a hold on this because they need their GPS devices to work without having to invest a whole bunch of money they don't have right now. Is the DoD really known as an easily "cowered" organization? Please. 

The simple facts, which no one really denies, are that LightSquared's transmissions interfere with many GPS devices currently in use. Especially affected are those sensitive devices used in commercial and governmental operations. 

LightSquared is probably completely correct that the devices were poorly or inefficiently designed in the first place, and that the interference isn't "their fault," but that doesn't make the interference go away. A bunch of devices are going to have to be replaced, at significant cost, and much of that cost is going to be footed by taxpayers. That doesn't happen in a short period of time. 

But what's the rush? Is this 4G technology so in demand it's going to save hundreds of lives tomorrow?

No, the rush is that LightSquared is funded by a big giant pile of someone else's cash, and they'd like to see their money grow instead of sit idle. They've already lost a big pile of cash committed by Sprint. They want to get this thing moving. Thus, they've called in favors with likes of Norquist, and they've done things like try to curry favor with senators.

Such as Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley. 

On Wednesday, Sen. Grassley sent a letter directly to Philip Falcone, head of Harbinger Capital Partners, which funds LightSquared. It was not a friendly missive:

On January 6, 2012, at approximately 12:45 p.m., a member of my staff who is investigating the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) decision to grant a waiver to LightSquared, a company owned by your hedge fund, Harbinger Capital Partners, received a phone call from Mr. Todd Ruelle of Fine Point Technologies.  Mr. Ruelle indicated that he “only gets paid if this deal goes through” and that “there will be a call center in the Midwest, possibly in Iowa, if this deal goes through.”  This statement is of particular concern in light of your e-mailto my staff on October 5, 2011, which read in part, “The last thing I want to do is to make this more political than it already is.  It doesn’t belong in that arena.  However, since we are already there, I believe I can make this into a win for the Senator, Lightsquared and the consumer.” Taken together, these two statements implied an invitation to pull punches in my investigation. I won’t be a part of that.  

Yikes. An "invitation to pull punches." A bribe, in other words. I'd encourage you to read the whole email if you really like Washington inside baseball. Or even if you want just a peek at how this kind of big-money politics works. 

Unfortunately, considering the value of GPS to the 3D industry, it's something that may very well affect your bottom line. Stay tuned.


Permanent link

This LightSquared battle is getting nasty

Last week, it looked like the Defense Appropriations Bill had squashed any hopes terrestrial 4G provider LightSquared might have had of getting off the ground. I wondered if the fight might be over. Turns out, it was just getting interesting. 

This week, things got a little nasty, with Grover Norquist wading into the fight, and Sen. Chuck Grassley intimating he felt as though he was being offered something akin to a bribe to grease the skids for LightSquared. 

Let's start with Norquist. The anti-tax crusader joined with Kelly William Cobb, of an organization called Digital Liberty, which "advocates for a consumer-driven market free from heavy regulation or taxation of the Internet, technology, telecommunications, video games, and media," to pen a piece for The Hill, which is well read in Washington circles. Its title? "FCC can prevent crisis by moving on Spectrum now." I'm not entirely sure why spectrum is capitalized there, but let's ignore that for the moment. The thrust of the piece is that wireless companies, and their consumers, need more spectrum on which to transmit phone calls, media, communications of all sorts, and that the government is standing in the way. 

There are specious arguments throughout the piece (the early leader in the clubhouse was "they helped kill the AT&T/T-Mobile merger aimed at using spectrum more efficiently to expand coverage and capacity." Really? I thought AT&T just wanted to make a whole bunch more cash and limit my carrier options - silly me), but they quickly come around to LightSquared, which, given the timing of the piece, was likely the whole point:

Yet, when the GPS industry and federal departments complained that LightSquared’s network could interfere with some GPS devices, the Commission quickly quieted, cowered, and slowed the company’s plans. The GPS industry used influence with bureaucrats in the federal government to curb progress, even leading to the Pentagon and other agencies leaking a preliminary report on spectrum interference in an effort to tarnish LightSquared’s public image. While progress has been made by setting up a working group between stakeholders, the Commission has largely bowed to this outside pressure. Instead, they should be working to facilitate a solution. 

Well, I guess that's one way to look at it. In the very next paragraph, the authors acknowledge that this is a technology issue, not really a political issue, but they, themselves, are making it a political issue. Who said the FCC isn't trying to figure out a solution? 

The Department of Defense put a hold on this because they need their GPS devices to work without having to invest a whole bunch of money they don't have right now. Is the DoD really known as an easily "cowered" organization? Please. 

The simple facts, which no one really denies, are that LightSquared's transmissions interfere with many GPS devices currently in use. Especially affected are those sensitive devices used in commercial and governmental operations. 

LightSquared is probably completely correct that the devices were poorly or inefficiently designed in the first place, and that the interference isn't "their fault," but that doesn't make the interference go away. A bunch of devices are going to have to be replaced, at significant cost, and much of that cost is going to be footed by taxpayers. That doesn't happen in a short period of time. 

But what's the rush? Is this 4G technology so in demand it's going to save hundreds of lives tomorrow?

No, the rush is that LightSquared is funded by a big giant pile of someone else's cash, and they'd like to see their money grow instead of sit idle. They've already lost a big pile of cash committed by Sprint. They want to get this thing moving. Thus, they've called in favors with likes of Norquist, and they've done things like try to curry favor with senators.

Such as Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley. 

On Wednesday, Sen. Grassley sent a letter directly to Philip Falcone, head of Harbinger Capital Partners, which funds LightSquared. It was not a friendly missive:

On January 6, 2012, at approximately 12:45 p.m., a member of my staff who is investigating the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) decision to grant a waiver to LightSquared, a company owned by your hedge fund, Harbinger Capital Partners, received a phone call from Mr. Todd Ruelle of Fine Point Technologies.  Mr. Ruelle indicated that he “only gets paid if this deal goes through” and that “there will be a call center in the Midwest, possibly in Iowa, if this deal goes through.”  This statement is of particular concern in light of your e-mailto my staff on October 5, 2011, which read in part, “The last thing I want to do is to make this more political than it already is.  It doesn’t belong in that arena.  However, since we are already there, I believe I can make this into a win for the Senator, Lightsquared and the consumer.” Taken together, these two statements implied an invitation to pull punches in my investigation. I won’t be a part of that.  

Yikes. An "invitation to pull punches." A bribe, in other words. I'd encourage you to read the whole email if you really like Washington inside baseball. Or even if you want just a peek at how this kind of big-money politics works. 

Unfortunately, considering the value of GPS to the 3D industry, it's something that may very well affect your bottom line. Stay tuned.


Permanent link

LL Bean celebrates 100 years with laser scanning

I'm guessing it's a bigger deal up here in Maine than it is where you are, but perhaps you've seen the news: LL Bean is celebrating its 100-year anniversary by, among other initiatives, unleashing upon the world the Bootmobile. Yep, a pickup truck modified to look like like the iconic Maine hunting boot that launched the company way back when (interesting side note: my father's company once molded the rubber bottoms of these boots for a few years). 

It looks like this:

 

How'd they do that? Laser scanning, obviously. They've got a great making-of video right here (which I'd embed, but they don't provide the code), which features the guys from Echo Artz, who've made their bones in making rides for theme parks, talking about how they laser scanned the boot, then used the point cloud and resultant model to see just where it would fit over the truck, where the touch points would be and where the foam would need to be modeled and cut. Really, it's remarkable how well the boot shape fits over the truck, and it's remarkable how perfectly laser scanning fits this application. 

 

Easy as 1-2-3. Scan, model, real-life.

Sure, there's still artistry involved. They still had to be creative enough to take two-inch tugboat tow rope and paint it so that it resembled the classic two-tone lace. They still had to take the model and make it real through any number of sculpting hours. But just think of the headstart scanning must have given them. We've talked often about laser scanning large objects, part of historical sites, say, and making miniatures out of them. How about taking small items and making them 18-feet tall? What other applications immediately leap to mind - pieces for theatrical sets, marketing splashes that can be created quickly, who knows?

Further, this isn't exactly a company known for leading-edge technology. This is classic, old-time, outdoor clothing. If they're going this direction, anyone might. The streets might quickly be filled with vehicles in any manner of shape, like a Richard Scarey book come to life. 

I'm looking forward to it.


Permanent link

LL Bean celebrates 100 years with laser scanning

I'm guessing it's a bigger deal up here in Maine than it is where you are, but perhaps you've seen the news: LL Bean is celebrating its 100-year anniversary by, among other initiatives, unleashing upon the world the Bootmobile. Yep, a pickup truck modified to look like like the iconic Maine hunting boot that launched the company way back when (interesting side note: my father's company once molded the rubber bottoms of these boots for a few years). 

It looks like this:

 

How'd they do that? Laser scanning, obviously. They've got a great making-of video right here (which I'd embed, but they don't provide the code), which features the guys from Echo Artz, who've made their bones in making rides for theme parks, talking about how they laser scanned the boot, then used the point cloud and resultant model to see just where it would fit over the truck, where the touch points would be and where the foam would need to be modeled and cut. Really, it's remarkable how well the boot shape fits over the truck, and it's remarkable how perfectly laser scanning fits this application. 

 

Easy as 1-2-3. Scan, model, real-life.

Sure, there's still artistry involved. They still had to be creative enough to take two-inch tugboat tow rope and paint it so that it resembled the classic two-tone lace. They still had to take the model and make it real through any number of sculpting hours. But just think of the headstart scanning must have given them. We've talked often about laser scanning large objects, part of historical sites, say, and making miniatures out of them. How about taking small items and making them 18-feet tall? What other applications immediately leap to mind - pieces for theatrical sets, marketing splashes that can be created quickly, who knows?

Further, this isn't exactly a company known for leading-edge technology. This is classic, old-time, outdoor clothing. If they're going this direction, anyone might. The streets might quickly be filled with vehicles in any manner of shape, like a Richard Scarey book come to life. 

I'm looking forward to it.


Permanent link

LL Bean celebrates 100 years with laser scanning

I'm guessing it's a bigger deal up here in Maine than it is where you are, but perhaps you've seen the news: LL Bean is celebrating its 100-year anniversary by, among other initiatives, unleashing upon the world the Bootmobile. Yep, a pickup truck modified to look like like the iconic Maine hunting boot that launched the company way back when (interesting side note: my father's company once molded the rubber bottoms of these boots for a few years). 

It looks like this:

 

How'd they do that? Laser scanning, obviously. They've got a great making-of video right here (which I'd embed, but they don't provide the code), which features the guys from Echo Artz, who've made their bones in making rides for theme parks, talking about how they laser scanned the boot, then used the point cloud and resultant model to see just where it would fit over the truck, where the touch points would be and where the foam would need to be modeled and cut. Really, it's remarkable how well the boot shape fits over the truck, and it's remarkable how perfectly laser scanning fits this application. 

 

Easy as 1-2-3. Scan, model, real-life.

Sure, there's still artistry involved. They still had to be creative enough to take two-inch tugboat tow rope and paint it so that it resembled the classic two-tone lace. They still had to take the model and make it real through any number of sculpting hours. But just think of the headstart scanning must have given them. We've talked often about laser scanning large objects, part of historical sites, say, and making miniatures out of them. How about taking small items and making them 18-feet tall? What other applications immediately leap to mind - pieces for theatrical sets, marketing splashes that can be created quickly, who knows?

Further, this isn't exactly a company known for leading-edge technology. This is classic, old-time, outdoor clothing. If they're going this direction, anyone might. The streets might quickly be filled with vehicles in any manner of shape, like a Richard Scarey book come to life. 

I'm looking forward to it.


Permanent link

Depth acquisition, in your pocket, soon

How's this for a paragraph to get you excited?

Now imagine a device that provides more-accurate depth information than the Kinect, has a greater range and works under all lighting conditions — but is so small, cheap and power-efficient that it could be incorporated into a cellphone at very little extra cost. That’s the promise of recent work by Vivek Goyal, the Esther and Harold E. Edgerton Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering, and his group at MIT’s Research Lab of Electronics. 

A laser scanner in my cell phone? Sign me up!

Unfortunately, that paragraph might be over-reaching just a bit (we writers are shameless!). But this new technique of creating depth maps, called CoDAC (short for "Compressive Depth Acquisition Camera"), is intriguing nonetheless. 

I came across the above paragraph in an article put together MIT's news arm, and it does a great job of getting you excited about this new technology's capabilities and possibilities. Essentially, using commercial-off-the-shelf technology, these MIT researchers have built upon the time-of-flight principle of 3D data acquisition and created a very inexpensive way to get depth information. Sort of.

When you navigate to the team's home page (they're the Signal Transformation and Information Representation Group), you'll find lots of great information about what they're up to, including this part of the FAQ:

7. What are the challenges in making CoDAC work?

There are several challenges to making CoDAC work. The most important challenge comes from the fact that measurements do not give linear combinations of scene depths. For this reason, standard compressed sensing techniques do not apply. The light signal measured at the photodetector is a superposition of the time-shifted and attenuated returns corresponding to the different points in the scene. However, extracting the quantities of interest (distances to various scene points) is difficult because the measured signal parameters nonlinearly encode the scene depths. Since we integrate all the reflected light from the scene, this nonlinearity worsens with the number of scene points that are simultaneously illuminated. Without a novel approach to interpreting and processing the measurements, little useful information can be extracted from the measurements. The superposition of scene returns at the single detector results in complete loss of spatial resolution.

Hmmm. "Little useful information can be extracted from the measurements." That would seem to be a hurdle for most of you working with commercial applications of acquiring 3D data. They also can only currently create depth maps for scenes where all the objects are basically flat, which is again quite a limiter. 

Still, they're not saying it's a finished product by any means and the size and cost efficiencies they've created are incredibly tantalizing. This is certainly important work worthy of following.

How does it all work? Best to let the MIT brain do the explaining:

 


Permanent link

Depth acquisition, in your pocket, soon

How's this for a paragraph to get you excited?

Now imagine a device that provides more-accurate depth information than the Kinect, has a greater range and works under all lighting conditions — but is so small, cheap and power-efficient that it could be incorporated into a cellphone at very little extra cost. That’s the promise of recent work by Vivek Goyal, the Esther and Harold E. Edgerton Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering, and his group at MIT’s Research Lab of Electronics. 

A laser scanner in my cell phone? Sign me up!

Unfortunately, that paragraph might be over-reaching just a bit (we writers are shameless!). But this new technique of creating depth maps, called CoDAC (short for "Compressive Depth Acquisition Camera"), is intriguing nonetheless. 

I came across the above paragraph in an article put together MIT's news arm, and it does a great job of getting you excited about this new technology's capabilities and possibilities. Essentially, using commercial-off-the-shelf technology, these MIT researchers have built upon the time-of-flight principle of 3D data acquisition and created a very inexpensive way to get depth information. Sort of.

When you navigate to the team's home page (they're the Signal Transformation and Information Representation Group), you'll find lots of great information about what they're up to, including this part of the FAQ:

7. What are the challenges in making CoDAC work?

There are several challenges to making CoDAC work. The most important challenge comes from the fact that measurements do not give linear combinations of scene depths. For this reason, standard compressed sensing techniques do not apply. The light signal measured at the photodetector is a superposition of the time-shifted and attenuated returns corresponding to the different points in the scene. However, extracting the quantities of interest (distances to various scene points) is difficult because the measured signal parameters nonlinearly encode the scene depths. Since we integrate all the reflected light from the scene, this nonlinearity worsens with the number of scene points that are simultaneously illuminated. Without a novel approach to interpreting and processing the measurements, little useful information can be extracted from the measurements. The superposition of scene returns at the single detector results in complete loss of spatial resolution.

Hmmm. "Little useful information can be extracted from the measurements." That would seem to be a hurdle for most of you working with commercial applications of acquiring 3D data. They also can only currently create depth maps for scenes where all the objects are basically flat, which is again quite a limiter. 

Still, they're not saying it's a finished product by any means and the size and cost efficiencies they've created are incredibly tantalizing. This is certainly important work worthy of following.

How does it all work? Best to let the MIT brain do the explaining:

 


Permanent link

Getting past Ryan Seacrest at CES

I've had the chance to go to the Consumer Electronics show a couple of times over the years, and never took advantage of it, always following it from afar. If you're a tech geek and haven't been, perhaps you think of it they way I think of it, in the same way my kid sees Disneyland: You've got to go at least once. (And thank goodness we took care of that Disneyland thing this year - we can cross THAT off the list...) I didn't go again this year, but it's been hard to ignore some of the 3D news coming out of the show. For those of you who don't spend all day strapped to an internet browser, here's a wrap up:

/uploadedImages/Images/01.13.12.seacrest.png
 
That Ryan - such a great foil for Steve.

• Microsoft's annual keynote, which was its last, made it pretty clear that they're finally taking Kinect technology seriously as a commercial business possibility. Here's the official Microsoft internal blog wrap-up of the keynote from the corporate VP of communications, and there's some pretty cool stuff in there. Why on earth Ryan Seacrest was involved, and why they'd think anyone would want that giggling pretty hairstyle muddling up their tech news, I'm not sure, but pay attention to the Kinect stuff (and, no, not the two-way Elmo part):

We also announced that the new Kinect for Windows commercial program will be available on Feb. 1. Microsoft is taking Kinect for Windows beyond entertainment, already working with more than 200 partners, including United Health Group, Toyota, Telefonica, Mattel, American Express and more, in revolutionary new ways. Phew! 

That's right. Kinect's not just for hackers anymore. How are these 200 partners using what's essentially a 3D scanner for their businesses? Some of it's probably well behind locked doors, but expect to see some creative gesture recognition stuff very soon. 

I'm imagining American Express is just going to blast me in the face with a satellite-beamed projection of their logo every time I reach for my wallet in a public place, but who knows if I'm off base there. 

 

01.13.12.streamTV
 
Thanks to Stream TV, you can get those dinosaurs of yours to pop right out of the screen.

• Another entrant in the no-glass 3D TV experience. This time, it's not a $5k Panasonic, but rather Stream TV Networks, a company claiming to automagically turn 2D images into 3D images (I feel like I need to see this to properly understand it, but here's one explanation). 

You've read me going on about the viewing experience any number of times, but I'll say again that a good 3D experience for the viewer makes that viewer more likely to see value in the 3D data, even if it's slightly irrational and good 3D data collection can easily lead to 2D paper deliverables. This entrant is interesting because:

The technology promises to address the major concerns critics currently have with 3D video—the glasses and the potential for discomfort. Price has been another setback, but because the tool works with existing machines, it is likely to be less expensive than other 3D technology.  

Cheap, and no glasses. But does it really work? I need a demonstration, clearly. 

• Cubify! It's the little 3D printer that could, aimed, with all seriousness, at 8-10 year olds. There's a great write-up of it here from Treehugger. Sure, the initial play is to just download designs from a web site, modify them a little, and then print them out. But, hey, doncha know that Geomagic has a cool way to use a Kinect and its software to make a quick print-out of your own head (or whatever you want)? Here's a handy video to explain:

 

Needless to say, I desperately want one. Do you think it's good for the 3D data capture industry to have an army of kids growing up with the idea that of course you would scan something and just print it out? I do.

One publication says 3D is out, though! Has the bloom of the 3D rose already faded in the consumer electronics world (again)? Just as 3D movies had a hey-day, fell apart, and then came back with a too-expensive vengeance, I do wonder if all these 3D TVs that don't really work well and give you a headache are going to force yet another retrenchment. When compared with the kick-ass ultra-thin ultra-HD TVs, they fall sort of short, don't they? Does this really matter for 3D data capture? No, I don't think so. I think a better viewing experience would help, but we all know most of this is about fake stereo 3D videos anyway. Still, a mainstream meme that 3D is on the way out could be damaging in small ways.

And don't forget augmented reality. The Guardian's lead is this: "Many are speculating that this could finally be the year that augmented reality makes a genuine impact on gaming." Haven't we heard that one before? Virtual reality is good for data capture because I think there will be a demand for real-world environments to play in. Sure, the initial demand is going to be for space-worlds, and dungeons, and places you actually CAN'T visit, but I think in the long run there will be a place for scanning and capture of places that only a few people ever really get to visit: The Hermitage (Google thought there was a marker for this), say, or the beaches of Normandy.

But augmented reality is a different animal, an integration of what you actually see and what your phone or some other viewing window can add to that reality. This new augmented reality browser Aurasma is pretty dang cool, allowing for the integration of 3D objects into reality. The example given in the article is a flying pterodactyl that you can watch fly around Big Ben, not only getting blocked out when it "flies behind" Big Ben, but also allowing the viewer to move and see different sides of said flying pterodactyl. If you can put in animations, you can put in real-world 3D-scanned objects, allowing you to, say, preserve an environment forever just before it's torn down.

------

Anyway, yes, this is consumer stuff. It's right there in the title of the show. But CEOs are consumers, too, and you never know what might bleed into commercial use. Like that Kinect. If only you're willing to move to Windows 8...


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