Geo Week News

January 3, 2012

New tech in 2012: At least 30 percent 3D

The internet loves lists because people love lists. They’re so easily consumable. Hence the flood of end-of-year lists that look back on 2011 and the flood of start-of-year prediction lists that look ahead to 2012. I admit it: I’m a sucker for them, myself. 

As you might expect, there are any number of look-ahead technology lists out there, but I though this one from PC Pro was particularly apt for this column – 30 percent of its predictions for 2012 are 3D-related! Well sort of. Let’s examine.

1. HP’s 3D scanner. Unfortunately, this is not actually a 3D scanner. It’s not even a “scanner” as far as I can tell. Basically, it’s a device that’s part of a printer which takes a series of pictures and combines them into an evenly lit and suitable for online display image. It’s slightly hard to make sense of, and this video doesn’t really help all that much:


Perhaps most oddly, the video never actually shows you what one of these images winds up looking like. Also, why it’s supposed to be impressed that you can “capture images of 3D objects” I’m not sure. Isn’t that what one of those wacky things called a “camera” does?

Why is this important, though? Well, because 3D is sexy right now. People with new imaging technology want to get on the 3D bandwagon. That’s a good thing, in general, as it bodes well for those of you who can actually bring 3D technology to the table. 

2. Sony’s 3D personal headset. Now we’re talking. One of 3D data capture’s real promises is for ultra-realistic simulation technology. But if the display isn’t any good, the experience of the ultra-realistic simulation isn’t any good either. This headset offers the promise of much larger access to a realistic experience of 3D data. If it’s good for gaming, and there’s large uptake of the technology, the price will come down pretty rapidly. There are a lot of gamers out there. If they happen to make these kinds of displays much less expensive for engineering and training applications, so much the better.

3. Glasses-free 3D TV. Okay, we’ve been hearing about the promise of this for a while, but now at least there’s something being sold commercially that seems to actually deliver on that promise. Except the 55-inch 3D TV costs about $10k. And you can only buy it in Germany (?). But if engineering firms are going to use 3D data to make decisions, having one of these babies in the board room while everyone sits around spit-balling solutions to problems discovered in the field seems like a good facilitator. 


Sure, these are consumer technologies, but I saw in the security industry how consumer adoption of HD video rapidly forced commercial security integrators to get into digital video and HD video surveillance. I think something similar will happen with 3D data capture. As consumers come to expect 3D data delivery, they’ll also expect true 3D data collection, and that will bleed into commercial applications. How long? We’ll see. Maybe if we see a consumer-focused 3D laser scanner (I mean one that’s actually marketed that way, not the Kinect, which is sort of a laser scanner in disguise) in the predictions for 2013 we’ll know we’re pretty close. 

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