New features, Kinect-ability; new business opportunity, too
LAKE MARY, Fla. – First announced at the company’s U.S. 3D Documentation Conference in Orlando last February, Faro’s 3D App Center was formally released last week with a standalone software that allows users to plug a Kinect into a version of the company’s Scene software and two new plug-ins that allow for easy area measurement and registration reporting within Scene.
“Currently, all the apps have been developed by Faro,” said Oliver Bürkler, senior technical product manager for laser scanners, “but that will change very soon. We have some of the next developments in the pipeline and we just have to test them and then they’ll be ready for the App Center.”
Currently, they’re all free, as well, but that could also change. Bürkler said third parties will be able to offer their plug-ins for sale at essentially whatever cost they believe is appropriate, with Faro taking a percentage for hosting and managing the sale. “The idea is very similar to what Apple is doing,” he said, noting Faro would also be vigilant in making sure apps offered function properly and provide a good customer experience.
The Kinect app doesn’t even require that you have a license for the Scene software. Called Scenect, it’s a variant of Scene that’s able to control the Kinect or ASUS Xtion Pro Live devices. A user simply connects the device into the USB port and can scan to create a point very rapidly. “It’s a very affordable way to get into 3D data capturing,” Bürkler said. “It’s good for bringing people into 3D who weren’t into scanning before, or who thought it was too expensive … It’s free of cost. If you want to use it for longer than 30 days, you just have to register with us, which is free.”
You can watch Jonathan Coco of Engensus test out Scenect on a Marsh Buggy Excavator here:
While Bürkler said it’s more for fun and hobbyists, he noted that some professionals have already started using it for real applications. “We have customers who’ve realized that with Kinect you can go into very small spaces where you couldn’t fit a scanner,” he said, “like the dropspace above the ceiling … I’ve had a customer use a Kinect to scan the interior of a car, and the dashboard, where you couldn’t get a scanner. There are definitely professional applications.”
Further, he noted, “Microsoft has sold some 20 million of these, and if only a fraction is using it for scanning, that’s a whole new industry.”
As for the plug-ins, the new App Center essentially allows Faro to change its release philosophy, simply releasing apps through the App Center instead of releasing full update packages every time a new feature is developed.
“Faro never believed that one-software-can-do-all concept,” Bürkler said. “Scene is a very slim software package: you can register, colorize, that sort of thing, and now with the plug-in concept, anyone can write plug-ins to amend the functionality, without having to develop their own point cloud engine and visualization package … We hope this will increase the amount of available software. But we don’t want to have another Photoshop, that only professionals can use. It’s very similar to an iPhone app or Android app. Like the weather app, which just tells you the weather, or a cinema app, that just tells you what’s playing at the local cinema. So if you want to take area measurements, you download the measurement app. Or if you want registration reports, you download that app. You only download what you need, and you can just use them as they are.”
For those interested in developing, there’s a new developer web site where you can download the API and where they’ll keep API documentation. Potential development partners just need to send Bürkler an email, fill out a form and confidentiality agreement, and then you get free access to the web site and API. “Over time you’ll be able to enroll online,” he said.
“Already, we have more than 200 companies that are using our SDK,” Bürkler said, “which allows you to read the scan data and control the scanner. For the API, the amount of developers is rapidly increasing.”