Before writing this article, I looked up what the word “paracosm” meant. It’s an awesome word that I wish I had known about earlier, basically representing any fictional universe with its own language, history and geography. Usually it’s used in reference to the imaginary worlds that kids invent, but it can also describe such lands as Middle Earth or the universe of the Codex Seraphinianus, the best imaginary world I’ve come across yet (besides our own). So, with that definition in mind, you’ll have a clue as to what the Paracosm 3D scanning software is after.
The company behind Paracosm has the eventual plan to “3-D-ify the world”, scanning every piece of everything and making it virtual so that anyone can take that data and use it for different applications. Augmented reality comes to mind first, but 3D printing replicas of any object on planet Earth is a definite possibility. It relies on such scanning tech as the Kinect, or basically any other 3D sensor made by PrimeSense. After downloading their software, you can begin scanning your surroundings, guided by such helpful tutorials as the one posted below. Then, you upload your scan to the Paracosm cloud, where the data is turned into a 3D model. This model can then be handled in any standard CAD package for you to do with as you please, such as measure the distances between objects or alter your virtual world. You can see one example of a scan on the company’s site here.
Paracosm Beta – Scanning a Scene from Paracosm on Vimeo.
Currently, the software is in private beta, but, based on the funding received and partnerships formed, Paracosm has some people convinced. Founded in January of this year and based in Gainesville, Florida, Paracosm is a spin out of the University of Florida, using technology developed at the university. Possibly as a result of their ties to the school, they’ve received $300,000 from the Institute for the Commercialization of Public Research, which funds U of F spin-out companies. They’ve received an additional $500,000 from angel investors. Paracosm currently holds contracts with some organisations you’ve probably heard of, like Google, NASA and ESRI, a geodatabase software supplier.
Though there are other 3D scanning companies out there, this is the first one that I’ve come across that’s stated a goal with such a wide breadth. Imagine everything as a highly detailed virtual model that could also be 3D printed. And what if you could scan the insides of cupboards and under the couch or use an electron microscope to scan the fundamental matter that makes up life? Eventually, the entire virtual world would become a paracosm of the actual world and, for those who live inside of their computers, posting on forums and talking to friends via social media, the paracosm would be more real than the real world. Or we could scan every object in the world and print it. Then, we’d rescan everything so that the new virtual paracosm would contain the previous one. Or think of this: what if we created a second Earth so real that we thought that we were the copies and that they’d created us — the philosophical implications are endless!
Okay, sure, we’re a long way from duplicating the universe. First, the company will have to work out the kinks of how to scan moving objects, such as pets and people, let alone how to scan electrons and the Higgs boson. For now, a bit of light glinting off an object in the wrong way might create a hole in the paracosm. But when they do, eventually, “transform reality into 3D models”, you might look in the mirror one day and ask yourself, “Am I a 3D model?”