Aug 31, 2017 | By David

The rapid evolution of 3D technology in the last decade has seen the 3D printer, something that was once an expensive industrial tool, become an affordable household item for many consumers. So it was only a matter of time before 3D scanners became equally accessible. The parallel evolution of smartphones, in particular their camera technology, makes them the ideal candidate for bringing 3D scanning to the masses, and Sony is the first manufacturer to take the initiative. Two of its new devices, the Xperia XZ1 and XZ1 Compact, will come with 3D scanning capabilities.

While not necessarily producing the best or most popular phones, Sony has always been ahead of the rest of the mobile device pack when it comes to cameras. The tech giant currently produces almost half of the world’s smartphone image sensors. The ones shipped with its newest devices, the Xperia XZ1 and XZ1 compact, will be some of the most advanced so far. Demonstrated for the first time at this year’s IFA trade show in Berlin, the new XZ series will sit just below the company’s flagship XZ Premium range, and Sony will be hoping that the included 3D scanning features will tempt a lot of consumers in the saturated smartphone marketplace.

The 3D scanner in the Xperia’s camera should be straightforward for anyone to use, with a handy on-screen guide provided in the 3D Creator app that serves as the main interface for the scanning technology. Similar to 3D scanning technology built in to various other portable devices, it combines hardware and software elements to scan, but this is one of the most intuitive and advanced examples seen so far. Creating a detailed 3D image of whatever object you choose to point your lens at is almost as simple as taking a regular photo. Also, unlike with many portable 3D scanners in the past, there is no connection to a cloud service required to process the image, as all the processing takes place on-board the mobile device.

The 3D Creator app, which is Sony’s in-house algorithm for 3D imaging, comes with four different dedicated scan modes: head scan, face scan, food scan and freeform scan. Once a 3D scan is captured, there’s a number of different things that users can do with it. The files, each of which is around 2MB, are easily shareable with friends via an integrated connection to messaging apps like Whatsapp, and they can also be demonstrated to a wider network on sharing communities such as Sketchfab.

The 3D images can also be used with other third-party apps of various kinds. A 3D selfie could be used as a personalized avatar in a game, for example, and at IFA Sony apparently showed an unlicensed demo of this process with a popular game franchise. The 3D scans can also be sent to a user’s own 3D printer or to an online 3D printing service, for the production of a 3D sculpture of whatever object is scanned.

While the practical applications for 3D scanning might still be slightly limited and the feature serves mostly as a gimmick designed to attract consumers to Sony’s new products, there’s no denying the power and simplicity of the technology. As 3D scanning and printing become more widespread and accessible, and there are more platforms and apps that take account of this fact, we will perhaps start to see an increase in the integration of 3D imaging into our everyday lives.



Posted in 3D Scanning



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