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3D Cameras and Scanners

Portable 3D cameras will allow companies to easily create computer models that aid in demonstrating products and services. Currently creating these models is a very labor intensive process and requires artistic talent.

Cameras capable of generating 3D models have been around for a few years now, but only companies with large budgets have been able to afford them. Minolta tried to change this by offering, a $5000 3D camera called the 3D 1500, but this product has been discontinued. The 3D 1500 used MetaCreation's MetaFlash technology and MetaFlash's requirement of nearly ideal lighting conditions probably limited the 3D 1500's effectiveness in the minds of potential buyers. The dotcom fallout and the slow growth of 3D on the web probably played a part in the product's failure as well.

Like the 3D 1500, the 3DMetrics Venus3D image capture system is a point and click, single shot, modeling camera. Venus3D is larger than a normal 2D camera, but small enough to be portable with its tripod. Unfortunately the 3DMetrics is apparently out of business as well.

Genex Technologies Inc. offers a range of imaging options with their Rainbow 3D product line. The camera models use the same projected light technique to capture images, but their accuracy and field of view varies. Rainbow 3D cameras capture full frame images and textures in less than a second which isn't far behind the speed of a 2D digital camera. Weighing in at 12 pounds it's not quite as portable as a 2D camera though. They're also limited to indoor use.

An upcoming product that should be interesting is the Nomad from Arius3D. The technology is unique in that it uses three separate lasers (red, green, and blue) to capture XYZ and RGB values. Arius3D claims that by using lasers to capture all of the information their technology doesn't rely on outside light sources. If it works as hyped the Nomad will allow users to capture objects much easier than was previously possible. The resolution should be better than 50 microns.

On January 9 2002, Eyetronics announced a capture system called ShapeCam. It is not a 3D camera, but a lightweight frame that holds a digital camera and flash device. Two laser points help set the object distance and the flash properly lights the object being captured. The resulting images are then imported into Eyetronics software which creates the actual 3D model.

On March 25, 2002 Canesta, Inc. announced a new 3D CMOS imaging sensor. The sensor is able to capture a depth map using infrared light. Canesta calls this Electronic Perception Technology (EPT) and they are targeting a variety of markets including automotive, consumer electronics, mobile devices, and security. Canesta is selling their technology to product developers rather than end users and as of April 2007 there are no known high resolution 3D cameras using Canesta's chip.

Swiss Ranger's SR-2 camera uses the time-of-flight principle and a real time (30 Hz) infrared array sensor to capture a three dimensional representation of the scene, called a depth image. The camera is small, about the length of a pen, and it can capture gray scale images in addition to the depth images.

The image shown here is an example of the reconstruction of a depth image into it's three dimensional form. Click the image to see a larger version.

While it's not a single step camera the David Laserscanner is a neat and free way to create 3D models of real objects. Here's a quote from the site.

DAVID is a freeware software for laser range scanning. All you need is a PC, a camera (e.g. a webcam), a background corner, and a laser which projects a line onto the object you want to scan. So everyone can use it to scan objects without high costs; this is the big advantage over commercial solutions which are rather expensive.

If still images aren't your thing you might want to check out Advanced Scientific Concepts, Inc. Their 3D Video Cameras use Lidar to capture a depth for each pixel. O'Reilly Radar has a link to a Google Tech Talk given by the folks at Advanced Scientific Concepts.


Read the 3dcgi article on image based modeling to see how a normal still camera can be used to create 3D models.


While they're out of most businesses' budgets, high quality 3D cameras and laser scanners are still way cool. You can check some out by visiting the following web sites.

3D Digital Corp. - 3D scanner Reseller. They have a number of 3D scanning devices, some of which are portable.

3D3 Solutions - their FlexScan3D platform uses structured light in combination with a still or video camera to create accurate 3D scans.

3DV Systems, LTD. - their product, called ZCam Depth Camera, captures depth information in realtime. It is targeted at a range of markets from television and movie studios to games.

Arius3D - 3D cameras and digitizers.

Breuckmann StereoSCAN 3D - uses a white light projection unit and two high resolution digital cameras to build digital representations of physical objects in a flash.

Capture 3D - offers 3d scanning solutions including 3-dimensional inspection services, laser scanning systems, reverse engineering services, 3d laser digitizing systems and 3d vision systems.

Cyra - Cyrax 3D laser scanner system. It is capable of scanning large structures and sites.

Eyetronics - uses a grid of light projected from a slide projector and a digital camera. The light grid helps the ShapeSnatcher software create a 3D model. Vfxpro has a review.

Genex Technologies - their Rainbow 3D cameras are fast and portable.

Handyscan 3D - self-positioning and portable handheld laser scanners from Creaform.

InSpeck - offers a range of digitizing products and their technology has been used in games and movies. The August 2002 issue of Computer Graphics World features a cover story about digital scanning and its use in video games.

Micrometric Vision Technologies - the first color 3-D laser sensor with color-per-vertex capability.

NVision - they provide 3D scanners, software, and services.

Olympus 3D ScanTop - includes a turntable, lighting setup, background, digital camera stand, and software to control everything. This product's current status is unknown as the links on Olympus' site do not work.

Simple3D - a list of all things scanning related.

Swiss Ranger - their 30 Hz camera captures depth information in real time.

The Ultimate 3D Links has a lot of information about 3D Scanners.

XYZ RGB - 3D Scanning services.



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