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Smartphones are ludicrously under-used, so steal their brains
Who needs computers everywhere when the one in your pocket is ready for work?
It looked a lot like a tall drink can. Out of a lens at the top, a beam of green laser light shone onto a reusable takeaway coffee cup, slowing working its way across it, scanning.
That light came from the Eora3D, a portable 3D scanner that got me asking a few questions.
- How accurate is it?
- The model will have features down to about fifty microns?
- Wow. That's pretty good. And how much will it cost?
- Two hundred dollars?
- How's that even possible?
- Not much in it, really, just the base and the laser?
- So where's the capture happening? What's seeing the laser?
- That? (Pointing to the smartphone gripped in an arm extending from one side of the cylinder.)
- You're using the camera on the smartphone?
- Yeah. And the smartphone controls the scanner's motors. Points the laser where it needs to be?
- Did the laser just turn off? Does that mean the scanning's all done and we're converting the scan into a 3D object?
- Is that happening on the smartphone?
- Really? It can handle that much math?
- It can! And now I can rotate a rendering of the scanned coffee cup with a drag of my finger?
- What do you think?
Gobsmacked. And mainly because the device opened my eyes to the fact that everyone now carries a mighty powerful computer.
Current projections tell us that by the end of this decade, eighty percent of all adults everywhere will own a smartphone. We tend to think of this transition in terms of connectivity and commerce, but during that demo it suddenly became clear we're on the threshold of a bigger revolution in radically distributed, efficient and powerful computation.
Just a handful of years ago, a 3D scanner would have needed a top-of-the-line computer to handle the intensive maths that translate time-of-flight data into a high-resolution model. That hasn't changed. But - right under our noses – very powerful computers are now sold by the hundreds of millions.
Most are employed for Facebook, photography and Candy Crush, leaving them almost ludicrously underutilised. These devices have more capacity than we've ever imagined.
And now the penny is starting to drop that we should be putting their power to work.