The High Tech Society

The Lynx A: A Sneak Peak at the First Handheld 3D Camera

Gadgets & Gizmos

The Lynx A: A Sneak Peak at the First Handheld 3D Camera

We have all heard about 3D printers and the fantastic things that can be made with them. 3D printers, however, require a lot of behind-the-scenes technical knowledge to get things right. Users have to find, or create their own, design, which is not always that easy. Until now, that is. Goodbye complicated CAD programs. Hello 3D camera. Yes, that’s right. A handheld, real-time 3D camera is no longer just something you might see in science fiction movies. Chris Slaughter, an inventor and former electrical engineering student at the University of Texas, has actually done it.

What is a 3D Camera? What Does it Do?

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Simply put, this 3D camera is much like the traditional point-and-click digital cameras that you are used to. With one major exception, of course. Rather than taking a simple two dimensional snapshot, the Lynx A captures full three dimensional images by scanning the subject, calculates and crunches a lot of numbers and data, and produces an eerily realistic 3D model. Forget hanging a bland, flat picture of your favorite dog on the wall. With the Lynx A 3D camera you can, instead, hang a picture that looks like your beloved pooch is ready to escape from his wood and glass confines and smother you with smelly dog breath.

How does the Lynx A Work?

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Without getting into the science of the camera, much of which even I don’t fully understand, let’s just say that the Lynx A uses a lot of math and computation (again, something that is beyond me) to transform an object into a usable 3D image, or CAD file, that can then be exported into a 3D printer to make a real-world model.

The Lynx A uses a normal color camera lens that includes an infrared light projector. This infrared light lays an invisible grid pattern over the subject, be it a room, a person, or your beloved pooch, which is then analyzed by a receiver. This is where all that fancy math comes in. The receiver takes all this information, analyzes the way the infrared pattern warps around the subject, and does, according to Lynx Labs, billions of calculations per second to build a three dimensional representation of what it sees. With the power equivalent of about nine modern tablet computers, the Lynx A can do all of this within seconds, rather than the hours or days needed by traditional 3D software.

Where Did the Idea Come From?

According to Chris Slaughter, the idea for the Lynx A 3D camera came to him in 2011, after working in the robotics field in a Silicon Valley internship. The robots were interesting, but he soon realized that they all have the same flaws – the speed at which they navigate and “see” things, and their immense power consumption. With that in mind, he returned to the University of Texas with a goal: to find a better way to capture 3D images, a way that truly understands motion, shapes and empty spaces.

Why use a 3D Camera?

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Other than the real-world implications of 3D technology, a handheld 3D camera is just cool and geeky. Why wouldn’t you want to use one? But let’s take a look at some of the things a 3D camera can be used for. Suppose you are one of those people who love to spend their free time doing craft projects. A 3D camera will enable you to build trinkets, models, and all sorts of little things to add to your crafting. There are also other important things going on in the world with respect to 3D printing, as well. Research is being done, and in some cases real prototypes are being made, for printing replacement body parts for the medical field. If that’s not futuristic and awesome, I don’t know what is. Lynx Labs, the startup company responsible for the Lynx A, also envisions quality control and military uses for the technology, like the ability to scan the ground for explosive devices and other threats. With 3D printing and scanning technology, the possibilities really are endless.

I want one! Where Can I get it?

Unfortunately the Lynx A cameras are not available to the general public just yet. While the Lynx A was launched with a highly successful Kickstarter campaign, only the initial backers can currently get their hands on one of them. Because of the amount of time it takes to make each camera (they are each handmade in order to minimize quality control issues), the manufacturing is somewhat limited for the time being. Lynx Labs has made no announcement about when, or even if, the camera will be offered for sale to the public, but I’m sure we’ll see them on store shelves sometime in the foreseeable future.