Occipital to Develop Portable 3D Scanner

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Occipital, a San Francisco company better known for software development, is making its first foray into the hardware market with a portable 3D scanner.

Occipital has turned to Kickstarter as a means to raise funds for the development of their Structure sensor. The initial funding goal of $100,000 was reached in a little over three hours. As of this writing, the total raised is over $230,000.

The device will be powered by a PrimeSense Carmine sensor. However, Occipital has reduced the bulk of the scanner to make it more portable. They have also reduced the power requirements. The Structure sensor will have its own battery to avoid being a drain on the computing device it is connected to. Battery life is expected to be 4 hours of use.

While designed with the 4th generation iPad in mind, the Structure can connect to any device with a Lightning dock, and with an adaptor can connect to USB ports as well. Open source drivers will be available not only for iOS; but also for Windows, Android, Mac OS X, and Linux.

There are several applications that will be included with the portable scanner, perhaps the most useful are one that scans objects for replication in 3D printers, and another one that can make a 3D model of interior spaces, complete with measurements. Part of the reason for funding the project through Kickstarter is advance access to the device so early adopters can report issues, and software developers can make new apps for it. Occipital is providing the tools necessary for adapting the Structure to new platforms and new apps with some of the donation options.

Because the Structure uses infrared light to scan objects, it can also be used as a night vision camera. Its sensing range is from about 35 cm to 3.5 m.

Occipital will make a bracket available for the 4th generation iPad and iPad mini, as well as future models of those devices, so users can clamp the scanner to them. The company also plans on making CAD models that consumers can use to 3D print custom brackets to attach the sensor to other devices, such as the Oculus Rift. The Structure is currently available in two colors: Ice blue (a rather silly name, considering that ice is not normally blue), and silver. Most of the housing is anodized aluminum, with one surface made of hardened glass so that the IR emitter and camera can function.

The Kickstarter packages that include the portable sensor start at $349. Occipital was offering their most basic options for $329 to the first 300 donors; but those units have already been taken. They expect to start shipping the Kickstarter bundles in December and to finish by February, although considering the demand so far, and the fact that there are still 44 days left in the funding period, one wonders if the developer will be able to keep up with the orders. No word yet on when the Structure will be available in retail outlets, or what the price will be when it goes into mass production.

By Milton Ruiz

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