Hardware add-ons for smartphones continue to crop up, letting mobile users extend the powers of their devices in new and interesting ways. Here’s the latest: LazeeEye is a prototype add-on, currently seeking crowdfunds via Kickstarter, that wants to augment your existing handset with laser-powered 3D mapping capabilities — and do so for very little extra money.
It’s designed to work in conjunction with the on-board horsepower of your handset, to do the necessary 3D processing, and a stereo vision app — to visualise and play around with the 3D scenes being captured. The ultimate aim is to power a new generation of 3D photo apps and services — that could, for instance, help you visualise what that new couch might look like in your front room. Or view a photograph from multiple angles.
LazeeEye is just a concept, for now. And the current prototype really does look like it’s held together with bits of string. But the idea itself is interesting, and if LazeeEye’s makers can polish and shrink their hardware, optimise their algorithms and software, and deliver on their price pledge, they could put 3D mapping tech within reach of a lot more people — assuming they hit their rather ambitious Kickstarter goal and pull in the funding needed to pull all that off. So yeah, plenty of ifs. But a cool idea, nonetheless.
Google unveiled its own 3D-focused Project Tango prototype smartphone back in February: an Android powered handset with built-in depth sensors so the phone user can map and visualise interior space.
That project remains experimental. It’s coming out of Google’s Advanced Technology and Projects hardware skunkworks, with no signs Mountain View is hurrying to push it into consumer hardware. The initial focus for Google seems to be on finding out what sort of apps developers build with such a device at their fingertips.
But even if Google does end up shipping a Nexus handset with built in 3D sensors that would require people to buy a new phone just to acquire the 3D mapping powers. LazeeEye’s vision is a hardware add-on that plugs straight into your existing handset to extend its abilities.
Aside from Project Tango, the LazeeEye is also lining up to compete with Occipital’s Structure 3D sensor for iOS devices.
But it’s aiming to undercut Occipital on price — the latter’s 3D sensor costs circa $350. While LazeeEye has a $50 DIY kit for people who are happy to assemble the hardware themselves, or $75 for the assembled version. There are also some more expensive pledge levels, $125 or $150, for lasers with different nanometer wavelengths.
LazeeEye’s Massachusetts-based makers, Heuristic Labs, are seeking to raise a rather hefty $250,000 via Kickstarter to make the project fly. If they hit that goal — they have a long way to go, but have given themselves around two months to get there — they’re aiming to ship to backers starting this June.