They say necessity is the mother of invention, and that’s certainly the case with the University of Massachusetts Amherst’s new “Beastcam”.
It’s a portable high-speed 3D scanning device invented by one of the university’s biologists, Duncan Irschick. Irschick’s field work with sharks demanded a way to compare and contrast body shapes as there are many variations among the different species.
The result was something they call the “Beastcam”. It’s a portable unit weighing less than 5kg that employs an optical process to perform the scan.
Essentially, this device is a series of digital cameras mounted on a number of arms, all pointing at the subject in the center from different orientations. At the push of a button, the cameras engage and thus capture views of the subject from multiple directions. The camera does not include a 360 degree view, but vastly simplifies the process by effectively using mulitple cameras. So instead of 40 camera capture tasks, you have only 10 with four cameras attached.
To capture a specimen it can take around 30 seconds to snap the required images from all sides. Apparently they can extend the arms to capture larger objects, like a car, for example.
These images are then submitted to any number of online 3D reconstruction services, such as 123D Catch or ReCap 360, which interpret the images and background to develop a full 3D model of the subject, so it’s not a complete 3D scanning system. It’s really just the imaging portion.
This item is not a product, but is a one-off tool made for a specific purpose, but it seems to me that this could indeed be a useful product that some may be interested in using, if it were priced right.
Pricing of this type of contraption would largely be dependent on the price of the cameras involved. You can spend as much as you want on a camera, but this technique would also be useful with inexpensive webcam style devices, too.
Who’s going to productize this approach?