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What 3D means for mobile…and what mobile means for 3D

Imagine being able to immerse yourself in a location at any time from any place – and experiencing it as though you were there – just what 3D media provides.

At Matterport, we see a day in the not-too-distant future when the camera in your pocket has a 3D sensor in it, allowing you to not just snap a picture of something, but to really capture a location so it can be recreated and then experienced at a different time and place on any device. We are a little ways away from that eventuality, but we need to start now to develop the 3D medium. That’s why we created the Matterport 3D Media platform, starting with the Matterport Pro 3D Camera and our cloud system for processing and experiencing 3D media content. The sooner we enable people to start capturing and experiencing 3D media content, the faster 3D photography will evolve.

In this early stage of 3D media, high-quality immersive 3D content is “professional”, meaning the capture process is still not in reach of the average consumer, but the costs and complexity have come down significantly to the point where non-technical people can capture spaces very quickly and inexpensively. Our goal over the next couple of years to make 3D cameras as ubiquitous as high-quality DSLR cameras and to drive the generation of a variety of 3D content that millions of people will experience and enjoy.

Experience 3D on mobile now, Capture 3D on mobile soon

Mobile will play an important role in both sides of the equation; experience and capture. Today you can experience 3D media on tablets and smartphones and devices like the newly announced Samsung Gear VR (based on Oculus technology). With the addition of WebGL in iOS 8, accessing 3D media content is now even easier. As the technology for experiencing 3D media becomes ubiquitous, the applications that take advantage of 3D media become richer and more familiar to consumers. The level of consumer engagement and familiarity will be keys to driving demand for consumers to capture their own 3D media.

We believe that the 3D media revolution starts with mobile 3D experiences because people need to experience 3D content to understand what’s so great about it. It isn’t something you can just tell people about and have them really “get it”. In some ways this is a similar path that 2D photography went through at its very early stages of development in the US in the 2nd half of the 19th century. Professional documentary photographers helped introduce the medium to the general public through photographs of the US Civil War and through the Geological and Geographical Survey of the Territories. We think for 3D, the transition from professional capture to consumer capture will start with the popularization of professionally captured content (but this transition won’t take anywhere close to 100 years!).

Once people see how powerful the medium is, they will want to capture it themselves, with the camera in their pocket. For 3D capture, we have always believed that 3D sensors would make it into mobile devices before long. As a computer vision company, our team has a lot of experience with 3D technologies and we had expected the incorporation of 3D sensors to be on a 3-5 year time horizon. However, major investments being made by Google with project Tango and Intel with RealSense have driven significant advancements in 3D sensor technology, and we see that time horizon moving in significantly as companies like LG and Dell have both make announcements of upcoming tablets with 3D sensors. This is an important part of the transition from 2D to 3D media, and we’re working to bring our computer vision expertise to the table to make sure these 3D sensors create a realistic experience of any space.

We think we are at the dawn of the creation of the next generation of photographic media that will change the world by giving anyone the ability to capture a location and deliver the full experience of that location to anyone at any time. The future is fully immersive, and we think that starting now, mobile devices will be an important key to creating this future!