Kinect-like Occipital Structure Sensor lets your iPad model the world in 3D


posted Wednesday, September 25, 2013 at 7:38 PM EDT

Ever wish you could capture 3D imagery with your smart device? OK, maybe not -- 3D cameras haven't really caught on in the same way that 3D televisions have. How about if we said you could not only capture, but also model the 3D world around you? In an age where 3D printing is becoming a reality even in the home, that's an altogether more interesting proposition, and it's one made reality in a new project by Occipital Inc.

Occipital is the company behind the 360 Panorama app for iOS and Blackberry devices, as well as the RedLaser shopping app for Android, iOS and Windows Phone. Now, it has turned its attention to 3D capture, inspired by its tinkering with Microsoft's popular motion-sensing Kinect addon for Xbox 360 and Windows. The Occipital Structure Sensor is the first 3D sensor for mobile devices and, essentially, a mobile equivalent of the Kinect. It's able to detect depth and motion not just in your living room, but anywhere you can take your fourth-generation iPad.


While it's only intended for the iPad so far, the Structure Sensor will also work on any iOS device with a Lightning connector. Among those devices, official support is also planned for the iPad Mini in the future. And for those on other platforms, Occipital plans to foster hacking by releasing a USB cable and open source drivers for Android, Linux, OS X, and Windows. (That's a refreshing change from the early Kinect days, when Microsoft opposed plans to hack its motion-sensing device, a stance it later reversed.)

The Structure Sensor will mount on your iPad via a custom bracket, and plans to help with creating your own 3D-printed brackets for other devices will be available. Once mounted and attached to your device, the Structure Sensor will illuminate your subject with infrared light. It will then record what it sees in color (or if there isn't enough light for a color image, in infrared), and simultaneously record a 3D depth map. Demo apps for iPad will be included which take this data, and use it to create 3D models of objects, allow you to scan and measure rooms, and more.

An official introduction to the Occipital Structure Sensor and its capabilities.

The sensor has a working range of 1.3 to 11.5 feet (40cm to 3.5m), and it includes its own power source, allowing it to be used completely untethered (save for its wired connection to your smart device or computer, anyway.) Battery life is said to be sufficient for four hours of continuous use, or 1000+ hours of standby.

The Occipital Structure Sensor is crafted from aluminum, and available in blue or silver variants. It's currently listed on crowdfunding site Kickstarter, where it has surpassed its initial funding goal of US$100,000 by almost an order of magnitude. (And that in itself is a pretty good indication of the concept's popularity.) Funding closes in a little over a month, and you can reserve your own Structure Sensor -- either for iPad, or for other devices via USB -- at a cost of US$350 or thereabouts. If you want cables both for iPad and USB, you'll pay an extra $30. More details can be found on Kickstarter.

The Structure Sensor mounts on your fourth-gen iPad via a custom bracket.

(via John Nack on Adobe)