Evolution of Our 3D Scanning Solution

We want to build a business around the 3D Custom-Fit technology. So, finding a reliable, affordable, and easy-access 3D scanning solution is critical. The easier it is for the customers to get 3D scanned, the more likely they will choose our products and services.

There are many 3D scanning solutions. And obviously, we should focus the small, portable solutions. Because only small devices can be carried around and become popular. The ideal solution is that smartphones have a built-in sensor that can do the 3D scanning.

Structure Sensor

When we first started our company in 2016, we were using an external device, called the Structure Sensor, as the 3D scanning tools. Here’s the link to this product: https://structure.io/structure-sensor

Originally, the Structure Sensor is used on the iPad. In the package, there’s a bracket that lets you attach the Structure Sensor to the back of the iPad. And the camera on the back of the iPad has to align with the Structure Sensor to get accurate results. The Structure Sensor team provides developer SDK and a sample App to start with.

Later in 2017, we developed our own App and also a phone case to hold the Structure Sensor. At that time, we thought the iPad was too big and not as popular as the iPhone. It works great most of the time, but with some flaws. For example:

  1. The Structure Sensor often loses alignment and needs calibration. The process is hard to learn for new users.
  2. The Structure Sensor has its own battery. We need to charge it regularly. Otherwise, we will face the awkward moments when we need to scan somebody but have to charge it first. 
  3. The Structure Sensor has a unique cable connecting itself to the iPhone’s lightning port. The cable could break or disappear. And it is also very expensive to buy a new one.
  4. The Structure Sensor is not designed for scanning the face. Its primary usage is for AR, room scanning, and object scanning. So the density and accuracy of the laser projected are far from ideal for scanning faces.

Apple FaceID

Apple announced Face ID during the unveiling of the iPhone X on September 12, 2017. We think it’s the perfect choice for our 3D scanning solution. Becasue of the following reasons:

  1. The FaceID 3D scanning sensor is embedded in the iPhone, which guaranteed popularity and accessibility. iPhone is the most popular smartphone in the world. If Apple decided to use FaceID, we can know for sure that billions of customers will have access to the FaceID.
  2. The FaceID 3D scanning sensor is designed for face and head 3D scanning. So from the specification wise, it’s designed for our purposes.
  3. System integration eliminated issues like the battery, cable, alignment, etc. This very convenient for the new users. Reduce the barriers.
  4. Apple provides more advanced developer support for its FaceID hardware. Developing application based on FaceID is much easier than using Structure Sensor.

We developed our own 3D scanning App using FaceID and Bellus3D’s API in 2019. It works great so far.

What's Next

Although FaceID has been around for a while, the applications are all focused on securities and identity authentication, animated emojis, selfie portraits, filters, and special effects on social media. Not many people are using it as a 3D scanning tool to buy 3D Custom-Fit products, which could be the next hot application of FaceID.

The latest trend is that Apple has put the 3D scanning sensor on the back of the iPhone and iPad, for example, the latest iPhone 12 Pro and iPad Pro. In this case, you have two 3D scanning sensors on both sides of the device, the front, and the back. We know for sure that Apple is pushing the capabilities of its device to a whole new level.

In the end, I hope Skelmet’s business model, 3D Custom-Fit, could become another killer application of FaceID.

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