Guest author Sanjay Patel is CEO and co-founder of Personify, an immersive video technology company.
Before long, 3D imaging—which requires a 3D camera to capture the 3D nature of the world—will be a core component of laptops, tablets and smartphones. While it’s easy to imagine how this technology might impact consumers, especially with Amazon’s Fire Phone, Google Tango, Microsoft Kinect and Oculus Rift making headlines, its usefulness for business isn’t quite as straightforward.
But 3D imaging will have a significant impact on the enterprise. We’re already seeing numerous Fortune 500 companies and smaller companies testing 3D-based applications and experiencing very exciting results.
Many hardware and software 3D technologies—for instance, touchless user interfaces, immersive video chat, face recognition, 3D scanning, etc.—can also translate directly into applications for the enterprise.
For example, 3D imaging could vastly improve virtual meetings and presentations by making them “immersive.” Applications that use depth-sensing technology can extract individuals from their surroundings and “place” them into 3D virtual meetings with their colleagues, or even into a virtual “space” with data objects—documents, presentations or what-have-you—they can manipulate and display. It’s basically the same thing you’d do with a digital-effects green screen, only without the green screen.
Immersive meetings will let business types interact more directly with their customers or colleagues and to present data, images and video more the way they might in a face-to-face meeting—only with way more flair. This sort of immersion will become a core capability for all online collaboration.
Security And Face Recognition
Fingerprint sensors are becoming more common for protecting valuable data (and digital wallets) on our smartphones. The next advance in this area will involve devices that automatically recognize their user’s faces.
Face recognition isn’t a new technology—Android devices already let you unlock them by pointing the forward camera at your face, although the process is neither reliable nor very secure. A 3D camera can do a much better job, though, by capturing precise facial shapes and contours. From an enterprise perspective, making mobile devices more secure is a big priority; that alone can justify the transition to 3D imaging.
There’s been a lot of buzz this year about innovations in 3D printing. Gartner even recommends that enterprises start “experimenting with 3D printing technology to improve traditional product design and prototyping, with the potential to create new product lines and markets.”
If you accept that we’re likely to see an explosion of 3D data captured by 3D imaging systems, then it makes sense that 3D printers will be an ideal way of turning that data into something tangible. Waving a 3D camera around an object will be enough to capture that object as a high-resolution, 3D surface mesh that can then be printed out as parts, models or prototypes. This will be incredibly valuable to businesses.
Another important element of today’s 3D camera is the advanced, beam-forming array microphone—the audio analog of a 3D camera. This feature will provide better background noise suppression and echo cancellation, which will enable far better voice recognition.
With the array microphone, we can expect digital assistants like Siri, Cortana and Google Now to improve dramatically. Better voice recognition will help transform communication in the workplace and improve productivity, making a vast range of existing applications controllable by voice.
The Enterprise 3D-For-All
Larger companies like Intel and Google are leading the charge when it comes to the development of 3D technology for the enterprise. As Intel announced at CES and recently at Computex, perceptual computing is a core initiative for the company, a big part of which involves bringing 3D imaging to the PC. Having 3D cameras in every PC will be a major game changer for the industry.
On the mobile side, Google announced Project Tango, a mobile device prototype that can track your motion and map your surroundings with its built in sensors and processing capabilities. Startups to watch in the 3D industry include Acquifi, FaceShift, Emotient and of course, Personify.
3D imaging is happening, and it will drive the next big change in the way people use computers and other technologies. Enterprises must get on board now or risk falling behind.
Image courtesy of Flickr user Alex Eylar, CC 2.0