As of now, city simulations have an indoor problem, and you see it as clearly in Google Street View as you do in Grand Theft Auto. While we can recreate city grids within software, the illusion ends as soon as you want to go inside a building. It’s as if the world is a giant facade.
Privacy issues aside, there’s a reason that our view stops at the sidewalk. It’s extraordinarily time-consuming to generate unique 3-D maps for inside environments. You can capture a stitched panorama, but that really only fits the bare minimum of interaction.
Matterport is a 3-D scanner that has the potential to easily digitize indoor spaces. It’s intended to “work like a 3-D point and shoot camera,” and anyone walking through a room can use it to essentially film a true 3-D layout with photorealistic textures. Technically, it’s pretty much a Kinect that fits in your hand–in fact, the original working prototype was literally just that. Matterport’s custom software does the heavy lifting to actually combine the images into a greater whole.
“In the shorter term, we are focused on commercial uses for a variety of markets, including but not limited to construction, architecture, entertainment, and real estate,” spokesperson Florence Shaffer writes Co.Design. “Construction and architecture companies would be able to create complete 3D building models with accurate measurements in real-time. The entertainment industry would be able to create quick, beautiful models with no post processing and true dimensions for reference or ultra fast previz. Real estate companies would be able to show their spaces in a brand new way to virtual clients around the world.”
But while Matterport surely sees its most immediate (and highest margin) profits in the commercial sector, a 3-D scanner for home use could be an overnight sensation that changes the way we catalog spaces and share objects.
Imagine if you wanted grandma to be able to visit your new apartment, and she could because you shared it on Facebook. Or consider the technology in its smaller scale. Rather than scanning a full room, you could create a (real) 3-D photograph of an heirloom, or an art project. You could digitize anything on the large or small scale. And for the first time, we’d have a common tool that could create meaningful virtual spaces filled with things of importance to us.
And as augmented reality becomes more of a norm with technologies like Project Glass, Matterport would be a means to map a 3-D interactive space at the smaller scale–for the small business owner or the local township that wants to create a tourist-friendly space.
As of right now, the short Matterport demo doesn’t look to be quite as easy to use as your typical point-and-shoot. But the technology is young, and the possibilities are endless. The Matterport, in some incarnation, should be available later this year for an undisclosed price.
[Hat tip: technabob]