Occipital builds first-ever 3D scanner for mobile devices

June 15, 2014

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For Vikas Reddy, co-founder of Boulder- and San Francisco-based Occipital, the 3D scanning and augmented reality space today is akin to cars in the 1900s – innovation doesn’t involve responding to a problem, but forging the path for an entirely new industry.

“It’s like asking people back in 1900, ‘What do you want out of mobility?’” Reddy said. “They’d say, ‘Well, I want a faster horse,’ not an automobile.”

Bridging that horse-to-car conceptual leap – of getting people to understand something they didn’t think possible to understand – is a both a challenge and source of excitement for a company like Occipital. With Structure Sensor, a first-of-its-kind 3D scanner for tablets and mobile devices, the team is building into territory that no one has touched before.

And they’re building quickly. Reddy and co-founder Jeff Powers, both with technical backgrounds, paired up in 2008 to create barcode scanning application RedLaser as participants in one of the early Boulder Techstars programs. Just months after selling RedLaser to eBay and finishing Techstars, the duo had already begun creating real-time photo app 360 Panorama. A $7 million Series A led by the Foundry Group followed shortly thereafter in 2011. It wasn’t until this September when Occipital unveiled its newest product, the Structure Sensor, through a Kickstarter campaign, which ultimately amassed more than 3,500 backers and $1.2 million.

“We spent an incredible amount of time trying to explain in our Kickstarter video, ‘Why is this important? What’s good about it and what does it enable in the future?’” Reddy said. “It’s hard to convey it in words until you actually build it.”

The first round of Sensors have completed production and this month, backers will receive their “early bird” pre-orders of the tool, now available for regular preorder to be shipped in July.

Affixed to the iPad, the $349 self-powered Structure Sensor is useful for a variety of tasks, from measuring a room’s dimensions for interior decorating purposes to capturing an object to import into CAD. Development of the underlying technology required a strong team of every kind of engineer, Reddy said.

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The 16-person company is split equally between Boulder and San Francisco, with the former handling the Sensor’s compact hardware and the latter managing software development. Reddy estimates the company will double in the next year or two.

While the hardware side is primarily focused on quickening production to keep up with user demand, Reddy said the software pipeline still contains “a ton of stuff.” Occipital is continuing to develop existing and additional features, keeping in mind its two types of end users: complete, low-level capabilities for developers and higher level SDKs suitable for the regular consumer audience. With a growing number of players in the 3D scanning, 3D printing and virtual reality industries, as well as advancements in sensors, computing power and algorithms, the team anticipates being occupied for a while.

“This isn’t just another web startup or taking something that’s been done in the past and putting it on the internet,” Reddy said. “It’s a whole new wave of computing.”

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