The future is 3-D
We've heard plenty of things about the Kinect's amazing popularity and its futuristic possibilities, but KinectFusion takes the device to another level. It's a research project that turns the Xbox 360 accessory into a real-time 3-D scanner. The precision and fidelity of the Kinect creates highly accurate 3-D models at a fraction of the cost of existing 3-D scanners, which cost thousands and are typically reserved for professional work. It's like the leap made from the first digital cameras to those in use today, a massive improvement available at a fraction of the cost.
This isn't a revolution by itself, but the connection is obvious: 3-D printing has been gaining ground, with 3-D Systems
HP controls 42% of the boring old 2-D printer market, and that brought the company almost $26 billion in revenue last year. Putting a 3-D printer in every home could make that seem like peanuts. Just think about the potential cost of cartridges that print materials rather than just colors on a piece of paper. More use, more replacement, more revenues. It's terrible for manufacturers, though, because it keeps the overall cost of use high.
The tipping point
Simply scanning and replicating objects like on Star Trek isn't going to be the killer KinectFusion app. It's just as -- if not more -- likely that the KinectFusion could become indispensible to a new generation of amateur designers. Combining high-fidelity raw images with sophisticated 3-D modeling software such as Autodesk's
Once Stratasys and HP bring a consumer model to market, it can only increase the pressure on 3-D Systems to lower its prices. Like most modern printers, you can probably expect much of the long-term profit to come from printing supplies. Combine printer pricing pressure with the KinectFusion's inexpensive scanner, and 3-D printing could make rapid strides toward mass adoption.
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