02.10.13

Smart building design could get smarter

AUTHOR: Inavate

The scope of usage for mobile devices in pro AV could expand into a new dimension when they are equipped with 3D vision. The new hardware could enable these devices to offer a host of new design tools for construction and AV design applications, and strengthen the pro AV offering for the retail sector.

The first mobile depth-sensing technology to hit the market is likely to be the Structure Sensor, an accessory for Apple’s iPad that gives the device capabilities similar to those of Microsoft’s Kinect gaming controller. Occipital, the San Francisco company behind the device, says it will start shipping its product in February 2014.

Occipital has developed apps that allow people to scan objects in 3-D by walking around them, and to scan entire rooms. One shows how the sensor can enable augmented reality, where virtual imagery is overlaid onto the real world when seen through a viewfinder.

Jeff Powers, Occipital’s CEO and cofounder, said he has had a lot of interest from people seeking to undertake measurements of space, to replace the methods that people in the construction industry are doing today.

The Structure Sensor works by projecting a dappled pattern of infrared light out onto the world so that its infrared camera can observe how that pattern is distorted by the objects it falls on. That information is used to reconstruct objects in 3-D. That process relies on a chip Occipital buys from PrimeSense, based in Israel, which makes hardware underpinning Microsoft’s Kinect and has its own effort to bring depth-sensing to mobile devices.

This January, PrimeSense demonstrated a 3-D sensor called the Capri small enough for laptops or tablets; this month mobile chipmaker Qualcomm used it to demonstrate augmented reality gaming on an Android tablet.

The app was enabled by adding support for 3-D sensing to Qualcomm’s Vuforia software that helps mobile software developers build augmented reality apps, a feature the company calls Smart Terrain.

Jay Wright, vice president of product management at Qualcomm, predicts that consumers will eventually use depth-capable apps for more than games. A person could use an app powered by Smart Terrain to see a virtual preview of a new piece of furniture in their living room at true scale, for example.