Historically, creating an accurate 3D model of a physical space has been a time-consuming and expensive process that cost tens of thousands of dollars and required teams of people and days, if not weeks, to complete. But a startup called Matterport has dramatically changed that, with a $4500 camera that the company says can capture fully immersive 3D models of physical objects and spaces in a matter of minutes. And according to Matterport, the device can be operated by pretty much anyone who knows how to use an iPad — making 3D modeling more accessible than ever.
It’s a pretty impressive claim, so we invited Matterport to stop by TechCrunch headquarters to show us just how the camera works by creating a 3D map of our TechCrunch TV green room. You can see that in the video embedded above.
In an interview, Matterport’s CEO Bill Brown told me that there are three categories of people who they expect will most benefit from the product: Customers who want to document spaces, such as people managing construction projects or setting up remote factories; people who want to promote a space such as real estate agents or entertainment venue owners; and people who want to modify and redesign spaces by changing out flooring or furniture.
And while Matterport’s current camera is impressive in its form factor and ease of use, Brown says that this is just the beginning — and that very soon, Matterport’s system could be something that fits into your smartphone. “Matterport was started with the vision that eventually everybody is going to have a 3D sensor in their pocket. When we get to that day, you are no longer going to take 2D pictures,” he said.
He went on to note that with projects like Google’s Project Tango (with which Matterport has collaborated), this technology is being pushed forward even faster than they had initially expected. “We’re not going to be surprised if you start to see the first [mobile 3D imaging] devices toward the end of this year, and within a couple years, it will be pretty commonplace.”
Matterport’s latest camera might not be quite small enough to fit in your pocket, but for now it definitely lived up to the hype. The entire process of capturing the image took less than 20 minutes, and Matterport sent over the completed 3D map that could be navigated through within just a couple of hours. We included the footage of that model in the video above, and you can also see a video of a fly through of the model here: