3-D photo business looks to reshape industry
By Martin Kidston/MISSOULA CURRENT
There was a time when statues were reserved for the famous – presidents, military generals and athletes. For many decades, those generic idols topping wedding cakes across the country have represented the typical Joneses, including their stiff, traditional attire.
But times have changed.
An upstart Missoula company is leading the way in three-dimensional photography, allowing people to represent themselves in both digital and physical form. The likeness of an actual bride and groom can now adorn the wedding cake. Vampire slayers can play as themselves in video games.
If you're so inclined, you can even own your own bobblehead.
“This last week, I was at a military base scanning soldiers in their full uniform,” said William Pedersen, manager of Dimensions 3-D Portraits. “They can print out army men of themselves for their kids, or create tactile memorabilia where you can remember them by placing their statue on a hearth.”
Pedersen began his Missoula-based business by providing nothing more than a data image. But the technical requirements eluded most of his customers and it didn't pan out, so he turned his focus to producing a product, one that takes both a digital and physical form.
“This is a supremely customized piece of data on the Internet that has a tremendous value,” said Pedersen. “It represents you. It's something that can be used for identification. It can also be applied to 21 other industries to add value to their products and services.”
Using a scanner, Pedersen takes roughly 70 photographs and combines them with a data stream and infrared sensor. The result creates a depth map, which renders a three-dimensional image.
The image is them submitted to Sketchfab, allowing the subject to copy a code onto any social media site. The image can also be embedded into video games, or rendered to view in virtual reality headsets.
But it's the physical options that get people talking, he told listeners Wednesday at 1 Million Cups Missoula.
“Once you have your 3-D portrait, you can upload to sites that will use your likeness to create products, such as bobbleheads,” he said. “There are quite a few different products and services that are available, and more are coming online all the time.”
The latest evolution of products took the form of sugar, allowing couples to reproduce themselves as edible statues atop a wedding cake. From platinum to composites, the list of materials continues to grow.
“You can print in any medium you want,” he said. “The digital value is also great and can be customized to create a personal avatar.”
While one-dimensional portraits are good for framing, Pedersen said, a three-dimension portrait opens up new options made possible by advances in technology. Pedersen believes it will change the nature of family photos, high-school yearbooks and other memorabilia.
“The photographic industry is a $10 billion industry,” said Pedersen. “This technology is going to eventually replace that industry.”
With the future in mind, Pedersen has turned his attention to Missoula-area schools, the military and theaters to drum up business. Blackstone LaunchPad at the University of Montana – a business incubation center – recently connected him with MisCon.
There, at Montana's largest science fiction convention, Pedersen preserved the winner of the costume contest in a three-dimensional portrait. He plans to target comic conventions and Cosplay events as well.
“Once you have your digital portrait, you can upload it and it gives you access to all the 3-D printing hubs on the planet,” he said. “That gives you the opportunity to print to just about any medium and scale you want.”
For more information, contact Dimensions 3-D Portraits at 406-203-8920.