When you attach Occipital’s Structure sensor to your iPad, you get a sense of what Geordi La Forge would look like if he was a tablet. The somewhat bulky 3D-scanning accessory, equipped with an infrared transmitter and sensor, clips onto the top of the iPad and plugs into its Lightning port.
From there, you can use the $380 rig to quickly create 3D scans of anything: Entire rooms, objects you’d like to 3D-print, and environments you’d like to turn into interactive AR backdrops using Occipital’s Bridge Engine. The Structure depth-sensing camera itself has been around for a couple of years, but Occipital’s been hard at work since then making it easier to use.
The result of that work is a new iOS app called Canvas, which lets you sweep the sensor rig across a room to create a raw 3D map of it instantly. The app guides you through a big scan, overlaying already-scanned areas with a paint-like filter to show you if you’ve missed a spot. When you finish capturing, you immediately see a raw 3D model of the scene in the app—and you can also see the distances between objects without having to use a tape measure at all.
But the thousands of measurements Structure makes every second get more useful when you use the Canvas app’s “Scan to CAD” feature. That part isn’t done on the iPad itself—you have to submit your scan via the app for processing by a beefier computer—but it generates a CAD file of that raw scan for hard-core DIY and remodeling projects. Because the infrared sensors on the Structure rig work in tandem with the iPad’s main camera (Occipital recommends its optional $20 wide-angle attachment for the best-quality scans), the CAD conversion is a full-color rendering.
Those CAD files take up to 48 hours to create and get emailed back to your account, but the alternative is usually much more costly in terms of time and money. According to Occipital Labs co-founder Jeff Powers, scanning an eight-room home takes about 30 minutes with Structure, while manual measurements would run around seven hours. Contracting the work would cost close to $2,000, while Occipital charges $29 per room for the “Scan to CAD” feature.
Canvas is the first app Occipital has built for its unique scanner, and the app and the Structure sensor are built specifically for use with the iPad. However, Powers and his team say it’s possible that in the future, the app could work with anything from Project Tango devices to Microsoft’s 3D-scanning tech.