Jun 7, 2016 | By Andre

For a large part of my life, the term 3D had gimmick written all over it. From 3D movies, video games and VR, it was always something that was so cool until you actually realized it wasn’t. The tide has definitely turned in the last few years thanks in-part to improving optics and processing power available on the consumer level. So when this year’s social media darling Snapchat announced the acquisition of 3D face scanning (and augmented reality) app Seene, I was by no means surprised (just a little bit excited).

The app - available on both the itunes store and google play for some time now - is a quick and easy way to experience augmented reality as well as the ability to create 3D scans (with a heavy focus on facial recognition) directly from your smartphone. And unlike offerings by the like's of Google with their project Tango or Microsoft’s HoloLens, it doesn’t require special hardware to operate.

Considering Snapchat is still in the hyper-growth phase of its development, being compatible on just about every device available on the market today is paramount. Seene’s product page stresses this by suggesting “we enable these devices to locate themselves in space, map visual environments and recreate in 3D what is seen through the camera, turning a standard smartphone into a 3D scanner without the use of additional hardware or off-device processing”.

As of this writing, Snapchat hasn’t divulged how much it paid for the app, but since it is a privately held company we’ll just have to be okay with that for now. What is known is that the developers of Seene are being relocated to Snapchat’s Los Angeles headquarters and that the service will almost certainly be integrated into the social media platform in some manner.

While still blurry on the details, it seems any short-term integration will have to do with either more realistic avatar creation, face-swapping capabilities or even just to gain access to the Seene's R&D assets still in progress.

Down the road, VR capabilities built in to the Seene app (they’ve demonstrated the app’s capabilities with the HTC Vive and Google Cardboard already) will likely be showcased more prominently within the Snapchat ecosystem but considering the limited adoption of VR tech (in part because of the expense associated with the technology) nothing is confirmed on that front either.

The app itself isn’t necessarily unique or bleeding edge as others are doing similar things. But with the 3D space becoming more and more crowded, Snapchat’s early acquisition might end up being a steal as the technology develops (they already have some roots in the space after the 2014 purchase of smart glasses company Vergence Labs).

From a 3D print perspective, the app is capable of capturing high-enough resolution to 3D print selfies and larger objects in a similar way to what Autodesk’s 123D Catch or even ReconstructMe is capable of but nothing in the way of high-resolution scan to print due to the limited capture abilities of the modern day smartphone.

Considering Snapchat recently passed Twitter with daily users (150 million), the company might just be beefing up its assets for an eventual drive to an IPO. But as someone that has been following the development of 3D technology for some time, I don’t see it as another gimmick in the making. The mix of 3D scanning and augmented reality capabilities sets Snapchat up as a player in the emerging space for years to come.



Posted in 3D Scanning



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