The future of 3D camera and body-scanning technology - The EE

The future of 3D camera and body-scanning technology

The 3D camera sector is growing rapidly. Industry analysts predict the market will expand to more than $10 billion (€8.39 billion) by 2026. So, what’s driving the fast growth? The consumer electronics market has become a primary driver along with new 3D camera applications across multiple sectors, including fashion, retail, fitness, healthcare and robotics, says David Chen, co-founder and director of engineering, Orbbec

Advanced 3D body scanning and measurement capabilities are opening new possibilities for 3D camera innovation to address persistent industry pain points in a way that 2D cameras can’t match, including helping people live healthier lives and offering a personalised solution to common retail pain points.

As the 3D sector grows, current trends provide suggestions on how 3D camera technology will evolve to change industries and solve problems in the coming years.

3D cameras and body-scanning technology will revolutionise fashion and retail

There are many exciting 3D camera applications in the retail space, with advanced cameras enhancing accuracy and driving efficiency in critical tasks like facial recognition, inventory monitoring, shelf analysis and store traffic data collection. But a new application is driving interest in 3D technology in the retail sector interactive store displays that use 3D cameras to showcase products for shoppers and provide a personalised experience.

But that’s just the beginning. 3D cameras and scanning technology have the potential to solve a “trillion-dollar problem” in the fashion/retail space, the high rate of returns for apparel purchased online. About 5% to 10% of in-store purchases are returned, but that rate rises 15% to 40% for online purchases. And that was before the pandemic drove a spike in online buying, likely raising return rates even higher.

Scanning technology can help by taking precise measurements of consumers so that they can choose the right-sized shoes or clothing every time. With 3D camera technology, people can virtually try clothing on to see how it looks before making a purchase. They can see an accurately scaled representation of how items like furniture, rugs or art would look in their homes before placing an order. This can solve the trillion-dollar problem.

Fitness and healthcare applications will drive better outcomes

Another truly exciting development is how 3D cameras and scanning technology are driving innovation in the healthcare and fitness sectors. Accurate body measurements are critical in assessing health status and evaluating progress toward fitness goals. 3D cameras and scanning can easily and accurately collect this vital data, allowing healthcare professionals and fitness experts to create custom solutions for enhanced performance and results.

This technology is slowly making its way into the public sector, typically found in gyms and allowing users to gather changes in their body shape. Expect similar scanning technology to eventually make its way into the home as the market for fitness equipment rapidly expands.

In some countries, 3D cameras and scanning technology are already being used by health professionals to assess student height and posture for annual health checks. Doctors are now using scanned images to create custom prosthetics or treatments for people with disabilities. Body-scanning mirrors and scales that produce body images in seconds already help people meet fitness goals at the gym or at home.

Technology and acceptance barriers to 3D camera adoption mirror those of 2D

When looking ahead to predict how 3D cameras will gain ground as a consumer and industry tool, it’s helpful to recall how 2D cameras proliferated and were adopted to enhance lives and solve business problems. The concerns and barriers to widespread use are similar early in the adoption curve and include privacy, costs, power consumption and optical technology issues.

As with 2D cameras, the technical barriers to 3D camera adoption are being overcome by innovations that address optical, cost and power consumption issues. The privacy issues are identical to 2D and will be addressed in a similar way. 3D cameras won’t replace 2D cameras but will instead be an add-on in the initial adoption phase, with 3D camera data added to the data already collected with 2D images.

3D cameras and body-scanning technology as a part of everyday life

Today, we’re barely scratching the surface of what is possible with 3D cameras and body scanning technology. Like the miniaturised, affordable and ubiquitous 2D cameras that came before, 3D cameras will change life as we know it. There will be technical problems to solve along the way and privacy concerns to address before consumers adopt the technology on a truly massive scale.

David Chen

But 3D cameras and body-scanning technology (from 3D camera manufactory Orbbec and its partners) are already making inroads into our everyday lives, enabling doctors to create custom treatments, allowing users to meet fitness goals and making it easy to buy with confidence online.

People want a personalised customer experience and creating a “digital twin” with accurate measurements is the ultimate in personalisation. So, look for the 3D camera and body-scanning technology sector to grow even faster in the coming years.

The author is David Chen, co-founder and director of engineering, Orbbec

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