Does this $59 3D-printed figurine make me look fat?

Scan yourself with Xbox Kinect and get a 3D figurine of yourself in time for Christmas. Artec Group, a manufacturer of handheld 3D scanners and software, now offers an online service called Shapify — at shapify.me — that lets users make accurate figurines of themselves and others.

The service uses models made with a commercial game controller sold for use with the popular Xbox 360 console to make a detailed scan of a person's body and then additive manufacture a physical 3D model of it. More specifically, Artec’s Shapify service uses models made with a Xbox Kinect (or Kinect for Windows).

First, users scan themselves, friends, or family with the Kinect — one person at a time, please — and then upload the scans to the Shapify website. Next, software sends the models over a server to a 3D printer that generates the figurines. A week or so later, presto — the user gets her Mini Me (and Friends, where available) in the mail.

A quick review for the uninitiated: The Kinect is a motion-and-body-sensing alternative controller that replaces the normal handheld game controller for the Xbox 360. The Kinect device is roughly the size and shape of an aftermarket TV soundbar, but on a motorized swivel base, and its original purpose was to let players navigate a virtual character through video-game environments just by moving their bodies.

The Kinect works by projecting an array of infrared dots into the space immediately in front of it. Then a CMOS sensor tracks how people in its field of vision reflect the infrared beams back (and how they shift and resize the dots). A color camera and microphones complete the modes of feedback for quick response.

As my esteemed colleague Bill Wong explains in his 2011 Primesense article — PrimeSense is the Israeli company that developed the technology inside the Kinect — Microsoft knew that the Kinect had potential in myriad applications beyond the Xbox. In fact, the interface was hacked early on and there's now a software development kit (SDK) for it.

One hacker using Kinect to make 3D models for importing into CAD software told us in 2011, "Kinect will soon be used as a low-cost 3D scanner for engineers and hobbyists. There's still software to be developed, but it should happen."

Well, here we are. Artec suggests that parents use Shapify to scan their kids to make gifts for grandmother. Or athletes could invite teammates over, scan the whole gang, and showcase the figurines with trophies and the like. Or give family clones to Dad so he can keep a mini-family on his desk.

What you need to order a Shapify model of yourself:

• A Microsoft Kinect for XBOX 360 or Microsoft Kinect for Windows

• Windows 7 x 64 bit or Windows 8, and at least an Intel Core I3 and 4 GB RAM

• Audio speakers and a USB 2.0 port on your computer

• Internet connection

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Elisabeth Eitel

Elisabeth is Senior Editor of Machine Design magazine. She has a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Fenn College at Cleveland State University. Over the last decade, Elisabeth has worked as a...
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