Structure Sensor: 3D scanning and augmented reality for iPad
By Heidi Hoopes
September 17, 2013
Structure Sensor is a clip on accessory for iPad that's designed to let you 3D scan objects, play augmented reality games and build a digital manipulable model of a room, complete with measurements. Occipital is looking to bring this sleek device to market by raising funds on Kickstarter, where it exceeded its funding goal within the first few hours.
Occipital’s roots are in software, most notably the 360 Panorama app. However, after seeing the potential of the Kinect for 3D applications, founder Jeff Powers was inspired to create a similar mobile tool that wasn’t hampered by needing a powerful desktop CPU or electrical plug-ins.
The Structure Sensor attaches to your device using the included bracket, which overlays PrimeSense 3D sensors with the iPad's camera. IR lasers essentially allow the Structure Sensor to see in the dark or invisibly signal another device. Scanning range begins as close as 40 cm and extends to 3.5 meters, so can be used for small objects or for a whole room.
The Structure Sensor will ship with several demo apps, most of which have videos of their own on the Kickstarter page, but Occipital makes it clear that the project is really about creating a platform. Access to the low level sensor is open to developers, or there’s an API available for those who just want to use its features in their own apps. Hence, Kickstarter reward levels include packages for development teams and hackers.
However, the apps that are included are impressive. You can scan and export an object to CAD or for printing. Walk around your room, acquiring a 3D model which you can interact with for measurements or to zoom out to a bird’s eye view. The other two apps demo the augmented reality gaming potential. In one a virtual pet interacts with your furniture, while the other demos the app’s ability to find edges and corners, with virtual balls bouncing helter skelter around the real-time geometry of the room.
Despite the Structure Sensor being designed for iPads with the new Lightning connector, Android users aren’t left out in the 2D cold. Drivers for Windows, Android, OS X, and Linux are provided, and connecting is simply a matter of using the right USB OTG cable for your device.
It’s easy to see this device being useful in a range of functions for engineers, designers, realtors, or gamers. Pledges start at $349 and the company says it is "near ready to begin manufacturing the first run of Structure Sensors Betas," with shipping expected to start in February 2014. Below is Structure Sensor’s Kickstarter pitch video.