Geo Week News

March 30, 2012

Matterport comes out of hiding

You’ve probably seen all of those great Kinect hacks where people are using it to basically create instant 3D models, yes? I’m sure you thought: Hmmm, sure would be nice if someone would commercialize that idea. Well, welcome to Matterport

I first ran across them about nine months ago when CEO Matt Bell posted this video demonstrating “Easy 3D capture of scenes and objects with the Kinect”: 


At the time, Matterport’s web page was nothing more than a placeholder with that video (I also highly recommend Bell’s YouTube channel, called YummyFuture BTW), and when I reached out to them not long after, Bell said they weren’t exactly ready to chat about the company yet. 

But once you show up on Venture Beat, you’re ready to chat. And that happened yesterday. Basically, in the interim Matterport became a Y Combinator company, which means they took a relatively small investment and worked intensely with some very smart folks and then showed off their stuff at “Demo Day,” which happened on Tuesday and is a runway show of sorts where all the season’s Y Combinator companies make potential investors oooh and ahhh over their stuff. Then everybody goes behind closed doors at some point and connections and investments are made.

Y Combinator has funded some 380 startups since 2005. Not all of them have flourished to become household names, but maybe you’ve heard of Dropbox? Reddit, the hipster homepage? Disqus? Lots of internet-centric firms, obviously, but also some pretty cool success stories. (By the way, applications for Summer funding were due yesterday – oops, you missed the boat.) Sixty-six companies showed off this week. 

One of them was Matterport, and the guys weren’t shy. The article’s title, “Matterport’s scanner can create a 3D model from anything,” which has been picked up far and wide, doesn’t really do them justice. I mean, it really doesn’t make sense when you think much about it. A 3D model OF anything? Well, of course. If you can scan one thing, you can scan anything, right? You’re just bouncing light off stuff. I guess if the light was radioactive or something, you could scan an inanimate object but not people… Sorry, sidetracked. 

Anyhoo, what’s cool about Matterport is that they do instantaneous scan-to-model. No point clouds in the middle. This is actually something that Creaform does as well, with its handheld scanner, and with far higher accuracy from what I can tell, but only for small things and the kicker is this:

“We turn reality into 3D models and our scanner is 20 times faster and 18 times cheaper than any other tool on the market,” says Matterport co-founder Michael Beebe, “We are creating fundamentally new technology, like the steam engine or the car.”

Yep, that’s the marketing guy. He knows how to catch your attention. What’s different now from when that first video was posted is that they’re not longer hanging their hat on the Kinect. They’ve created their own little piece of hardware and are betting (this is my opinion – I’ve got an email in with an interview request) that selling a “scanner” is more sexy than selling a piece of software. 

Here’s the hype video, which is pretty killer:


Matterport – Amazing 3D Scanning from matterport on Vimeo.

So, hopefully I’ll have a full story about these guys soon. Bell is ex-Google and then founded Reactrix, which is a pretty cool company that creates interactive displays, often used for marketing. Like ads on the ground or walls you can interact with. Or virtual soccer fields where you can kick a virtual ball over to your friend across a floor. And the CTO, Dave Gausebeck, was early in on PayPal and CAPTCHA, which both seem to have done alright for themselves. 

(BTW, take a look at the round up of the other companies at the Demo Day. Some of the ideas seem cool. Others? I mean, Pair, a social media site for couples where you only see each other’s status updates? Why wouldn’t you just text or email each other? And AnyVivo? A “marketplace for living things”? Yikes!)


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