Peering through the Stucture Scanner's lens at our loaner DJI quadcopter.
Last year, California-based Occipital closed out a wildly successful Kickstarter for its Structure Sensor, an iPad-mountable structured light scanner that can perceive the world in three dimensions by projecting infrared dots on things. The company is nearly done shipping the $399 devices to its crowdfunding backers (non-backers who buy one now can expect delivery in about a month), but we managed to finagle a couple of days with an early production version of the Structure Sensor to get a peek at how it performs in the real world. We learned a lot about what the Structure Sensor is—and we learned even more about what it isn’t.
We received a pair of boxes from Occipital: one contained the Structure Sensor and its dedicated Lightning cable, and the other contained the bracket necessary to attach the Structure to our iPad mini (the Structure works with any iPad with a Lightning connector, but you need the correct bracket to mount it). The device itself feels agreeably solid—it's wrapped in an anodized aluminum housing with a glass front, through which are visible two infrared LEDs, the infrared structured light projector, and the infrared camera. It screws into the provided mounting bracket, then slips onto your iPad and is secured in place with a clamp. Once attached, you then connect a custom Lightning cable from the Structure to the iPad’s port on its base. The entire assembly of sensor, bracket, and cable add about 124 grams of weight onto the back of the iPad.
Our review kit: one Structure Sensor, one iPad mini-sized mounting bracket.
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The Structure, though, isn’t so much a scanner as it is a platform. There are mobile and desktop apps you can use to make it work, but at least at this stage in the product’s development those apps are still a bit sketchy. They function more as demonstrations of the scanner’s potential uses than actual apps you’d want to use. The biggest draw about the Structure is its openness: the iOS SDK is available right now, which can be used to create Structure-compatible iOS apps immediately. Other platforms (Windows, OS X, and Android) will be getting open source drivers in the near future, though creating Structure apps for anything other than iOS will require the use of a special "hacker cable" to connect to the Structure.