As e-commerce grows more influential than the brick-and-mortar experience, the manner in which people create, buy, and sell products is segmenting between shopping for utility and shopping as a valuable user experience. Over the past two years alone, major retailers like Amazon and IKEA have launched Augmented Reality (AR) apps to allow customers to browse, select, and customize product choices. Meanwhile, Walmart employs BrowzWear, a software that enables the retailer to create intricate garment patterns and determine production costs.

Alongside an increase in AR/VR adoption, 3D body-scanning is emerging as another transformative technology, promising better fit, customization, and data capture for customers and retailers.

The New Catalog

Set upon the next digital horizon of frontier(less) retail, 3D scanning has never been more accessible to manufacturers, marketers, and corporations looking to venture into new retail frontiers and enhance the customer experience. A recent report by research firm Technavio estimates the global 3D scanning market to be worth $3.29 billion today.

Lenscloud, a Newlab member company boasting a hardware and software bundle that applies 3D scanning technology to all facets of visual merchandising, is demonstrating how this approach has the power to scale any item with direct consumer insight.

By scanning physical objects, including the human body, Lenscloud’s customized 3D services capture exact body specifications and gather relevant data analytics directly from the consumer: the first step towards improving product design and investment. These captures are then transformed into AR and VR digital assets, which can be fully modeled and cataloged.

A user steps into Lenscloud’s 3D scanner.

Lenscloud’s patent-pending software couples a circular, booth-sized 3D scanner with 120 sensors. “I’ve been a sculptor, production manager, and fabricator most of my life, which helped me truly understand both the artistic process and needs for all complex systems of creation,” shares co-founder and Managing Partner Ivin Ballen.

Mass market modeling

While more heavily textured 3D scans may take longer to register finer details — such as fiber in woven clothing, or furniture — Lenscloud’s method of photogrammetry is as reliable as traditional photography itself. “We rely on existing photogrammetry software, which creates 3D models from photographic data. The better the optics, the better the 3D model — but most critical is understanding photogrammetry,” explains Ballen. The 3D scanner scans up to 30 models per hour; each scan captures a total of 240 images, fully mapping a polygonal model’s unique contours, and begins processing within ten seconds of capture to render a textured 3D model every two minutes.

The Lenscloud step-by-step 3D scanning process.

Recent advances in volumetric capture software produce more points of geometry and textured detail. This complexity creates a 3D asset that can be utilized for every industry employing advanced motion capture: industrial design, custom fitting, medical molding, model prototyping, quality control inspection, and the overall digitization of product libraries for the future of online retail.

“Lenscloud is different than most size scanners because, in the process alone, the tool and system offer mass market appeal,” Ivin details. Polygon models of a surface produce different data sets than other 3D scanning machines can currently generate. “We’re not just taking measurements, but gathering data to create a fully-scaled 3D polygon model of a person or object. Unlike the film and entertainment industry that may use similar scanning technologies for costume fittings, little to no post-production cleanup is needed and processing is completed in one click.” With the ability to buy, sell, and ship consumer goods with more confidence, Lenscloud’s value is direct savings and control over a product.

Augmented shopping

While 3D scanners are not yet the norm amongst brick-and-mortar stores, Ballen believes 3D scanning adoption both in-store and online will provide a better shopping experience to consumers and positively impact retailers’ bottom line in the near future.

Lenscloud’s long term focus is on scanning people, art, and products, into virtual space for management, augmentation, and most often CNC carving and 3D printing. When scaled and coupled with the capabilities of AR/VR, which are also being used to better understand consumer behavior and reduce service costs by limiting overproduction, 3D scanning systems could provide mockups of any scannable item because of its software and hardware pairing.

“We’re a software business, even though we have developed this hardware,” Ballen details. “Our custom software is what has enabled us to reach an average of over 300 scans in a day. And we have yet to find anyone else that can do that and consistently meet a users’ needs.”