Originating as little more than laboratory curiosities in the 1980s, three-dimensional (3-D) scanners have emerged and expanded into a wide variety of commercial, scientific and artistic market niches.
In olden days (way, way back, say the turn of the new millennium), if you wanted 3-D image files of your home for CAD design purposes, you'd probably contract with a professional to do the work. For an eight-room home, scanning would generally cost about two grand and take about seven hours. It's an expensive, laborious task, wouldn't you say?
Well, back to future brings you a new iOS app that captures a 3-D model of any room, instantly. You tap scan, canvass the room, and watch as the app constructs a scale-accurate model in real-time on your iPad. Forget about the measuring tape. Canvas allows you to see the distances between objects without one. And skip the floor plan scribbles, too. The app captures tens of thousands of measurements simultaneously, and then pieces them together into an interactive 3-D model.
Yes, you'll canvass the room with the app, but ironically, the product's name is "Canvas," and it’s a product of Kickstarter-phenom, Occipital. In 2013 Occipital rolled out Structure Sensor, a portable 3-D scanner that connects with an iPad. Canvas is powered by the Structure Sensor.
The Structure Sensor is an "oblong-shaped device" about the length of a pen that's loaded with sensors for capturing objects for 3D imagery, according to Mashable. The device can be attached to the back of an iPad or used with smartphones, as well. The Structure Sensor was conceived to create more sophisticated 3D scans than achieved with a regular smartphone camera.
Canvas is Occipital's first iPad app built in-house. According to the company's co-founder, Jeff Powers, scanning that eight-room home takes about 30 minutes with Structure. Remember the seven hours the old-fashioned way?
Using Canvas with Structure offers a “Scan to CAD” feature. That part isn’t done on the iPad itself, however. It'll convert your scan into a editable, properly layered CAD file as if you'd made it from scratch. You can hide walls, extract floor plans, and use any other feature available in tools like SketchUp, AutoCAD, Revit, and other CAD programs. You can skip the set-up and jump right into design, according to Occipital's press release.
Also, because the Structure's infrared sensors work with the iPad’s main camera (Occipital recommends its optional $20 wide-angle attachment for the best-quality scans), the CAD conversion is rendered in full-color.
Canvas is a designed for architects, builders, and DIYers, according to Fast Company. The sensor and lens combo will cost $399, plus $29 per scan to CAD conversion, while the app itself is free.
"I think a few years from now we'll initiate most home projects by somehow mapping your space and sending it out and not actually having anyone come on site," says Jeffrey Powers, cofounder and CEO of Occipital.
"I think we'll probably look back at today as a time, just like the 1830s, when we just started to have photographs," Adam Rodnitzky, the company's VP of marketing tells Fast Company. "We're now entering the era when we're going to start having a 3D record of the world around us."
Learn more about 3-D scanning technology, the global market and other 3-D technologies such as structured light modulation, laser triangulation and conoscopic holography in BCC Research's new report, 3-D Scanning: Technologies and Global Markets.