A New You, Printed in 3D
I’m currently on one of my regular visits to Silicon Valley, and never cease to be amazed by the cool ideas from this hotbed of innovation.
Ellen DeGeneres’s famous picture from the Oscars illustrates how the trend for selfies is sweeping the globe, and it was only a matter of time before someone would take the concept further.
The Artec Group has done just that, selling 3D selfie statues in its small shop on Palo Alto’s trendy main street. The figures are created using little more than a Microsoft Kinect camera and some clever software called Shapify Me. Once you have been scanned (which takes a few minutes), you can have your own 3D selfie statue in a matter of hours.
If you can’t make it to Palo Alto or one of the other scanning shops around the globe, you can simply scan yourself at home using a Kinect camera and send the 3D picture away to have your selfie statue printed and shipped.
Decent 3D printers are heading towards the $1000 price point, so the technology is becoming accessible to almost anyone with a smart product idea and a 3D render. There are also plenty of 3D printing services that produce extremely high-quality results if you can’t afford your own 3D printer.
Camera technology is rapidly evolving. The Artec Group’s 3D selfie service uses Microsoft’s camera to capture the 3D image, but it won’t be long before such technology will be embedded in the bezel around the screens of high-end notebooks using technology like Intel’s RealSense 3D camera.
Replicating any small object — such as that elusive Lego brick or missing chess piece — will soon be as simple as putting a similar item in front of the camera, turning it in 45 degree steps and printing it out.
The selfie statue is essentially a gimmick (and an expensive one at that — an entry-level statue costs $80), but it underlines my view that 3D printing is democratizing research and development (R&D).
A decade ago, intensive R&D and rapid product prototyping was open to only an exclusive group of wealthy companies with tens — if not hundreds — of millions of dollars to invest. Now, anyone with a good idea can create a product prototype and quickly seek the investment they need to take it to the next step through crowd-funding Web sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo.
I accept that this is a highly simplistic view of what it takes to create a new product and get it to market, but it does signal a whole new wave of innovation, underlined by the current popularity of the so-called “maker” movement. This has to be of great concern to big companies whose exclusive control of R&D has allowed them to out-innovate smaller rivals and smart individuals.
I contend that it’s never been more important to keep an eye on the products emerging from crowd-funding Web sites. We consider it so important that we have someone in the CCS Insight team who scours Kickstarter and Indiegogo regularly to make sure we’re aware of any significant innovations from this channel.
It won’t be long before many schools and colleges have 3D printers available to their students, and I’d wager that a fair few affluent households will own one within a matter of years. That means we’ll have a whole new generation of young makers that are limited only by their imagination. It’s an exciting prospect and a sure sign that my 3D selfie will soon be joined on its shelf by an array of other exciting 3D designs.
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