Geo Week News

January 9, 2013

3D wanted dead or alive at CES

Coverage of 3D’s presence at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week as been pretty schizophrenic: One one hand, the mass media is all over autonomous car news with lidar a key component; on the other, people are declaring 3D “dead.” What’s going on?

Well, I think it’s certainly true, as the above-linked article declares, that the latest round of buzz surrounding 3D display has burned itself out. On one hand, 3D display is no longer all that impressive or futuristic. On the other, the consumer experience still pretty much sucks. So it’s not surprising that “every big TV maker at CES has waved a clear white flag on trying to sell 3D TV as an important feature.”

But that’s good news for us! If it’s true that “The 3D TV won its tortured, protracted war — you can buy a 3D TV anywhere and at any time — and nobody could care less,” then it’s likely the 3D display will no longer be premium priced and those of you who actually enjoy looking at your 3D models and point clouds with a 3D display should be able to get one more affordably. If it’s soon just another feature, like the SAP button, that would be a great thing for the 3D data industry.

As for the autonomous cars, well, people are pretty captivated by them. I was listening to sports talk radio last night and the hosts were going on and on about the news that Lexus has their own lidar-equipped prototype (particularly appealing is the fact that you can have the car drive you home from the bar, apparently – and, actually, I can get with that). Pretty sure this is a Velodyne on the roof here:


A world where lots of people are rocking Velodyne-enhanced driverless cars is still far, far away, but it seems likely that even the 2017 or 2018 of my crappy Hyundai Elantra (not actually crappy at all) will have some kind of real-world sensor (lidar or otherwise) that will assist with driving to improve safety. 

But for 3D data acquisition, the company probably making the biggest impact at CES is a company that’s largely been out of the limelight, despite having technology in many of your hands: PrimeSense, developer of the technology behind the Kinect. 

They’ve got themselves a big “World of 3D Sensing” booth at the event and they’ve released a futuristic video to demonstrate some of the solutions they think are coming down the pipeline thanks to their 3D sensing device. You kinda have to watch it. It’s alternately really cool and really cringe-inducing, but it’s definitely well done:


I know, I know: Where’s the point cloud?!?! Obviously, it’s the back-end somewhere, with software churning away to process the data being collected. We’ve heard often from some quarters about the point cloud taking the place of the model or attaching more intelligence to the point cloud, but what if, as is happening in the close-range scanning field, the point cloud starts disappearing as the data processing happens in the middle to produce the desired deliverable (such as with Creaform’s handheld scanners, etc.)? 

One of the majorly featured companies in PrimeSense pavilion is Matterport, whom we’ve written about previously and who do that very thing: They ingest the data from the Kinect-like collection device and immediately begin to produce a mesh of the environment as you scan. 

Just print it out!

Finally, 3D printing continues to make an impact with the mainstream at CES. Business Insider was pretty impressed by MakerBot’s new Replicator 2X, which can print in two colors now and is faster. Plus, it looks like he’s got a book I’m going to have to review alongside Ping Fu’s. As for 3D Systems, they’re not making the hardware impact they made last year, where they really wowed people with the Cubify, but the CubeX is getting some love this year, as it allows for bigger objects to be printed faster (and it comes in pretty colors).

Rather, the big news is the announcement that 3D Systems has unveiled the beta version of what we’ve all been waiting for since the buy of Hypr3D (and, sort of, Rapidform and Geomagic): Cubify Capture, a service that allows you to upload photos and video that are turned immediately into 3D models that are suitable for printing.

Yes, it’s scan-to-print for the consumer market!

Details from the press release:

The company plans to expand the services of its Cubify Capture portal to include a full suite of thematic scan-to-print web and mobile apps. Users can capture on the go and upload pictures or video to where a 3D model is generated automatically and saved in the user’s Cubify account. These 3D models can be used for further modeling, customizing or fusing with other elements and readied for printing at home or through Cubify cloud printing, in monochrome, durable plastic or full color.

The company plans to develop a series of Cubify Capture apps starting with Cubify Capture: Faces, designed specifically to capture facial features and seamlessly turn them into customized 3D printable memorabilia. Cubify Capture: Faces for mobile will also be demoed at CES.

“We’re thrilled to invite users and educators to explore and experiment with the beta release of Cubify Capture, the first true real-world-to-print capture tool,” said Cathy Lewis, CMO, 3D Systems. “We are excited to see what our growing Cubify community will capture and print.”

I’m not entirely sure what they are yet, but I’m certain there are commercial applications for this kind of service and we’ll be hearing about them in short order.

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