MOUNTAIN VIEW – The next time you move, you might be able to give friends and family a virtual tour of your new home, thanks to new technology from a Silicon Valley startup.
Mountain View-based Matterport is set to begin offering a camera and service for sale Thursday to create 3D models of interior spaces or exterior scenes.
At $4,500, the camera is priceless to consumers. But Matterport hopes it will appeal to professional photographers, real estate companies and other businesses that might use it on consumer-facing websites. In the near future, when smartphones are equipped with 3D cameras, consumers may be able to directly upload their photos to Matterport’s service.
“It will be like taking a movie,” said Bill Brown, CEO of Matterport. “You can capture a location and explore it later.”
Virtual 3D models are nothing new, of course. Interactive 3D worlds have been part of video games for 20 years. In the early days of the commercial web, real estate agents could offer potential buyers a 360-degree view of homes using Apple’s QuickTime VR technology. Google has offered Street View for about seven years, which allows users of its Maps service to take virtual, street-level tours of neighborhoods and cities. And Autodesk has been doing quite a business in offering 3D modeling software and services.
But Matterport is one of the first companies whose modeling technology is built around 3D cameras. Its camera system is made up of three Kinect sensors that are pointed up, down, and directly ahead. By using 3D cameras, Matterport is able to create a model that accurately reflects the dimensions of particular rooms or objects within them.
The company’s service is also unique in that it was designed to make 3D models cheaper and easier to create, modify and view. The camera system creates a unique 360 degree image of a room in approximately 24 seconds. By placing it in different places in the room, it can fully capture all the objects in it within minutes.
The camera transfers the images to an iPad app which quickly stitches them together. The app then uploads them to Matterport’s servers for more thorough and detailed processing, a step that takes about 20 minutes, Brown said.
Users can view 3D models through their web browsers using the popular Unity multimedia plugin, instead of requiring special software. Templates are designed to be easily integrated into other web pages. In a future version of the service, users will be able to modify the files, change the color of the rooms, for example, or change the sofa to a newer one.
Matterport initially plans to market the system, available only through its website, to businesses and professional photographers. It plans to charge around $50-100 per month for its cloud service.
The company sees potential for the system in the tourism, real estate and furniture sectors as well as in the legal and insurance fields. A preliminary version of the system was used in George Zimmerman’s trial to model the shooting scene, Brown said.
But the company, which has raised about $10 million from Lux Capital and other venture capitalists, is also collaborating on Google’s Tango project, which explores how 3D cameras could be used in everyone’s smartphones. days. This effort could allow consumers to use their own photos to create virtual tours using Matterport’s service.
“Long term, that’s where we’re going,” Brown said.
Contact Troy Wolverton at 408-840-4285. Follow him on Twitter.com/troywolv.
Matterport in a nutshell
Headquarters: Mountain View
Founders: Matt Bell, Dave Gausebeck, Mike Beebe, who previously worked at Google, PayPal and SRI, respectively
Funding: $10 million
Investors: Lux Capital, Felicis Ventures, Greylock Partners, Gordon Segal, founder of Crate & Barrel, Blake Krikorian, co-founder of Sling Media
Product: 3D camera system and cloud modeling service.