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Cool Tech of the Week: Cordless 3D Sensor

Kolibri CORDLESSIt looks like a child’s toy from the 70s, but this new high-tech camera can record more than a simple Polaroid. It can create a 3D image of almost anything, and you can take it almost anywhere.

Developed at the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Optics and Precision Engineering IOF in Jena, Germany, the Kolibri CORDLESS is the size of a shoe box and it weighs a little over 2 lbs. No cables required, you just point and click. Several seconds later a detailed 3D image will appear on a laptop. From there you can analyze and use the digital model.

Devices like this one are already available, but until now they were too big and heavy to carry around. The next best model is twice the size and weight of the Kolibri CORDLESS. Why is the Kolibri so much lighter and smaller, you ask? LED lights, of course. 3D “cameras”(they’re actually called “sensors”) shine a projector light on an object, and two cameras record the image from two different angles. Then a computer compiles the data into a 3D image. By using LEDs, the Kolibri 3D sensor replaces larger, hotter, and more power-hungry Halogen bulbs. However, LEDs are not without flaw:

“This poses an additional challenge, as the LEDs shine in all directions. To ensure that the image is nevertheless bright enough, the light has to be collected with special micro-optics in such a way that it impacts on the lens.”

3D Tire tracksThe Kolibri CORDLESS could provide valuable services to doctors, forensics experts, industrial workers and more. Crime investigators could take 3D images of important evidence without disturbing the scene. Doctors could use exact, custom images of patients for sleep masks, surgery prep, or even prosthetics. Engineers or designers would have better models of tight, hard-to-reach spaces in buildings, structures, or products. Archaeologists could exactly record carvings or etchings in stone, wood or clay – some of which might be too delicate for moldings. Artists, no doubt, could have a field day. It might not be the greenest new gadget on the block (LEDs don’t automatically mean “green”), but users will no doubt increase their productivity as they perform work, and who knows what kind of important research could benefit?

The Kolibri could replace plaster as a reliable source for 3D models, and easily expand into spaces and places where plaster can’t go. Though not yet available for sale, Fraunhofer IOF will showcase their new gadget at the Control trade fair in Stuttgart, Germany, April 21-25 (Hall 1, Stand 1520).

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