Geo Week News

January 8, 2018

3D face scanning is finally here, again


The day we’ve been waiting for has arrived, er, for a second time. I’m referring to Bellus3D’s new 3D selfie camera, which illustrates the complexity of innovating new technologies in a world with companies like Apple and Samsung.

Let’s back up. One of the more intriguing stories out of CES last year was an “uncannily accurate” 3D face scanner from a company called Bellus3D. Think of it as being like a Structure scanner for your face. Clip it onto your Android mobile device, and its infrared depth camera will scan you, combine the depth data with RGB data gathered from your mobile’s regular selfie camera, and present you with an eerie 3D selfie in a few moments. Last year it was a prototype, this year you can order it for $599.

The problem, of course, is that Apple put more or less the same solution in the recently released iPhone X. It certainly looks like Apple beat Bellus3D to the punch, with the added benefit of thorough integration into the iPhone’s iOS operating system, and at least one application that is arguably more fun than taking a static selfie.

The upshot, as The Verge reports, is that Bellus3D is working with a company called Spreadtrum Communications (I couldn’t make that name up) to integrate their sensors directly into Android devices. This would bring the technology to mobile devices, and allow developers more freedom to experiment with the hardware than they would get within Apple’s famously proscriptive ecosystem.

But it’s not all roses there, either since Android-centric companies like Samsung are working to get into the 3D face scanner game as well, and could eat the rest of Bellus3D’s lunch. The lesson seems to be that, if you’re looking to innovate in consumer tech, your best bet is to get there before the giants do.

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