Those that have worked with consumer-level 3D scanners know the frustration of ensuring the steady capture of an object.  The slightest misstep in moving the device around an item can end with the dreaded “lost tracking” message that usually means that the scan must be started all over again.  Occipital, the start-up behind the low-cost Structure Sensor, believes that they’ve refined the ability of their 3D scanner to keep a lock on its subject with an motion tracking feature.  As 2015 ushers in an era of ubiquitous 3D scanning devices, Occipital’s motion tracking is, the company suggests, to 3D scanning what autofocus was to photography.

structure sensor 3D scanning autotracking

While working with the Structure Sensor myself, I found that the itSeez3D app was perfect for capturing highly detailed, full-color scans.  Using it, however, involved pausing with each step around an object in order to capture all of its sides.  As lazy as I’ve become with my iPhone camera, such manual input on my end was asking too much! From the looks of their promotional footage, Occipital’s new motion tracking feature turns a 3D capture into a seamless process, with their software knowing where an object begins and ends.

With the launch of Structure SDK 0.4, Occipital has updated its sample Scanner app to begin using the new motion tracking feature.  By continuously monitoring the geometry and color of a scanned object in contrast with the color and geometry of its moving background, Occipital hopes that even novice users will be able to scan objects without fail.  The combination of the depth data from the Structure and the color data from the iPad’s camera ensures a more trouble-free scanning experience, even allowing users to get too close to an object or completely lose sight of it altogether, without interrupting the scanning process. On top of that, it allows the Structure to scan uniform objects, like balls and cans, something that not every 3D scanner is capable of.

The exciting new motion tracking feature, along with enhanced color texturing, will be included in the Structure SDK 0.4 update that will be released in the developer forums this week; however, Occipital’s improved Scanner app is already in the App Store right now, for those who want to start toying around with it.  The motion tracking feature is just the beginning for Occipital’s Structure Sensor and 3D scanning as a whole.  As Occipital works towards establishing a 3D scanning ecosystem with their own device and accompanying apps, companies like Google, HP, and Intel are bringing 3D scanning to a broad range of consumer devices.  And, just as digital photography changed the way we interact with the physical and digital worlds, emerging 3D tech will have a similar impact, but to the third degree.