In creating computer generated imagery, reference photographs of real-life objects may assist modeling, texturing, and animating a 3D object. In animation, this practice translates into something called motion capture, or 'performance capture' when facial expressions are the focus (see: Avatar). Fixed reference points on an object or surface help artists recreate something virtually, but Microsoft XBox 360's Kinect technology is actually able to recognize shape and motion on its own, turning you into a full-body video game controller in real-time. The new Lynx A Camera looks to take this a step further. Meet the world's first 'point-and-shoot' camera that can model and capture the geometry, texture, and motion of anything you aim it at, right before your eyes.

First off, it's relevant to note the ways in which the Lynx A does in fact differ from the Kinect:

A Kinect is a 3D imaging sensor that provides a raw feed of 3D points. The Lynx A produces detailed meshes, motion files, and 3D panoramas in real-time thanks to the integrated hardware/software experience. The research that makes this possible was conducted over a year and a half by a qualified research team. It's certainly true that many of the hardware components are readily available, but the same could also be said of an Xbox 360. The real magic is in the software!

The project is currently (and already successfully) being Kickstarted, while receiving quite a bit of attention in the tech press as well. Here's the pitch video from the camera's designers at Lynx Laboratories:

It's going to take an endorsement of $1800 to get your hands on the camera via pre-order, but this is an extremely unique piece of video capture technology. If successfully developed and released, I would venture to name the Lynx A as one of the truly 'next gen' technologies in CGI. This camera specifically will take some time to fully iron-out, and the first iteration of this concept may simply be too experimental or low fidelity for serious photographers, filmmakers, or 3D artists. (The optical color camera component only shoots up to 640x480, so the textures are going to be pretty low-res for people used to modern photo quality).

That said, the possibilities are intriguing, and the technology is promising. Much like Lytro's lightfield concept, the point-and-shoot 3D camera will surely mature into something even professionals with the highest standards might consider practically. Below are some interactive examples of the "raw" data the camera can produce:

If nothing else, the Lynx A could provide a super portable all-in-one previsualization or first-pass CGI solution. After all, information it captures can be exported into software such as Blender, Maya, or 3D Studio Max for clean-up or further detailing and tweaking. You may even just use it to give CG work a head start -- perhaps it's a way for the art department to quickly and effectively keep the CGI team up to date, 'beaming' over scans of set designs or props that eventually must be recreated digitally at a higher quality. Similarly, it could produce models and motion-captured animations for use as digital stand-ins or temp visual effects. The exciting thing, I think, will be the ways in which a camera like this could expedite the digital filmmaking process, especially in vfx-heavy productions.

What do you guys see in the future of CGI with this type of technology? How do you see yourselves using this camera to the advantage of your productions or modeling/animating?


[via The Creators Project]