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Main article: Scanners

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TSA to expand 3D carry-on baggage screening to reduce security wait times

01:04 | 6 September

The Transportation Security Agency will expand its 3D carry-on luggage scanning program it originally launched in more than a dozen airports this July.

The agency originally estimated the program would be rolled out in 145 airports by 2019, but now raised that projection to 200 scanners, David Pekoske, the agency’s administrator, told lawmakers Wednesday.

In contrast to traditional 2D scanners that take photos from just a couple of angles, 3D scanners will use computed tomography (CT) to take hundreds of images per second with a spinning X-ray camera. With a more granular picture of each bag, the CT technology can build an interactive image that can be rotated and analyzed from 360-degrees by screening staff.

“They are a significant enhancement in security effectiveness,” said Pekoske in an open hearing at the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. “And I’ve also watched passengers actually self-align behind the CT machines because it’s a better passenger experience.”

In addition to creating an intuitive and quick way for agents to analyze these bags, the technology will also lighten the load on travelers by requiring them to take fewer items out of their bag prior to scanning.

The TSA might be one of the most unloved federal agency, but says its new scanning methods may one day allow flyers to leave their liquids and electronics inside their luggage without losing degrees of security. Pekoske also said that the agency has been able to detect 3D-printed firearms in travelers’ baggage, noting that the new CT scanners will make it easier.

However, just when that day will be is still yet to be determined. While the TSA has raised its deployment estimate to 200 machines this will only cover a fraction of country’s 2,200 screening lanes.

It’s one of the few ways that the TSA is trying to balance security with rolling back some of the restrictions that have been imposed in recent years, following airborne incidents after the September 11 attacks. The agency, created just months later, has been plagued with scandals and controversies. When the agency isn’t facing accusations of groping passengers running through its security checkpoints, it’s under fire for conducting not-so-secret surveillance programs on innocent Americans. That so-called “Quiet Skies” program — first brought to light by the Boston Globe earlier this year, was jumped on by lawmakers.

Pekoske said that out of the “thousands of passengers” monitored, no arrests have been made, the program “hasn’t foiled any threat,” and yet data is kept on travelers for at least two years in case it’s proven useful in the future.

But the administrator wouldn’t go into much detail, as much of the program “is classified,” but said that he was “confident” it’s reduced the risk to the traveling public.

A TSA spokesperson did not return a request for comment.



LA to become the first city to use body scanners in rail transit systems

00:15 | 16 August

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority just announced its plans to become the first city to use portable body scanners in its subway and light-rail systems to help detect the presence of explosive devices.

“We’re dealing with persistent threats to our transportation systems in our country,” TSA administrator David Pekoske in a statement. “Our job is to ensure security in the transportation systems so that a terrorist incident does not happen on our watch.”

The portable scanners will begin rolling out in a few months time, the executive director of security for the LA Metro Alex Wiggins said yesterday. According to the AP, the scanners will be able to conduct full-body scans from 30-feet away and are capable of scanning over 2,000 passengers per hour.

“We’re looking specifically for weapons that have the ability to cause a mass-casualty event,” Wiggins said. “We’re looking for explosive vests, we’re looking for assault rifles. We’re not necessarily looking for smaller weapons that don’t have the ability to inflict mass casualties.”

The machines, designed by the company Thruvision and costing $100,000 each, will project radio waves to create a visualization on a split-screen display that enshrouds “clean” passengers in bright-green and suspicious items in black.

The city is one of several in which the TSA has piloted these new body scanners, although LA will be the first to fully adopt them. The agency has also worked with public transit officials from San Francisco’s Bay Area Rapid Transit, New Jersey’s transit system, as well as Amtrak stations at New York’s Penn Station and DC’s Union Station. Wiggins assured passengers that screenings in the LA Metro would be well marked and that those choosing to opt out could do so by leaving the station.

These automated options appear to be a definite step-forward in protecting the 10.1 billions trips taken on public transit in America last year, however they are still no replacement for increased security personnel at these transportation hubs. Incidents, like the murder of Nia Wilson in a BART station this summer, would not be detected by these scanners but are preventable acts of violence nevertheless.

As transportation security continues to become more sophisticated, it will be important to enhance not only the technology but the training and use of officials as well.



Body scanning app 3DLOOK raises $1 million to measure your corpus

20:20 | 30 July

3D body scanning systems have hit the big time after years of stops and starts. Hot on the heels of Original Stitch’s Bodygram, another 3D scanner, 3DLOOK, has entered into the fray with a $1 million investment to measure bodies around the world.

The founders, Vadim Rogovskiy, Ivan Makeev, and Alex Arapovd, created 3DLOOK when they found that they could measure a human body using just a smartphone. The team found that other solutions couldn’t let them measure fits with any precision and depended on expensive hardware.

“After more than six years of building companies in the ad tech industry I wanted to build something new which was not a commodity,” said Rogovskiy. “I wanted to overcome growth obstacles and I learned that the apparel industry had mounting return problems in e-commerce. 3DLOOK’s co-founders spent over a year on pure R&D and testing new approaches and combinations of different technologies before creating SAIA (Scanning Artificial Intelligence for Apparel) in 2016.”

The team raised $400,000 to date and most recently raised a $1 million seed round to grow the company.

The team also collects “fit profiles” and is able to supply these profiles based on “geographic location, age, and gender groups.” This means that 3DLOOK can give you exact sizes based on your scanned measurements and tell you how clothes will fit on your body. They have 20,000 profiles already and are working with eight paying customers and five large enterprise systems. Lemonade Fashion and Koviem are both using the platform.

“3DLOOK is the first company that managed to build a technology that allows capturing human body measurements with just two casual photos, and plans to disrupt the market of online apparel sales, offering brands and small stores an API for desktop and SDK for mobile to gather clients measurements and build custom clothing proposals,” said Rogovskiy. “Additionally, the company collects the database of human body measurements so that brands could build better clothing for all types of body and solve fit and return problems. It will not only allow stores to sell more apparel, it will allow people get the quality apparel.”

3D scanners have gotten better and better over the years and it’s interesting to see companies being able to scan bodies just from a few photos. While these things can’t account for opinions of taste they can definitely make sure that your clothes fit before you order them.



GitLab acquires Gemnasium to strengthen its security services

15:00 | 30 January

GitLab, which helps businesses manage their software development and operations lifecycle from planning to deployment and monitoring, has acquired Gemnasium, a service that alerts developers of known security vulnerabilities in open source libraries and helps them resolve those issues.

Gemnasium will wind down its operations over the next few weeks. The company expects to completely shut down its service on May 15. All of the Gemnasium team will move to Gitlab. Until then, signups will remain open, though now is probably not the best time to jump on this service.

GitLab, which is currently in use by almost 100,000 companies, will integrate Gemnasium’s service technology into its own platform, which already includes tools for static and dynamic application security testing.

“GitLab’s vision is to provide best-in-class tools for the complete DevOps lifecycle in a single application,” said Sid Sijbrandij, CEO of GitLab, in today’s announcement. “Gemnasium is the best dependency monitoring solution on the market, and we are excited to be making its team part of the GitLab experience.”

GitLab’s acquisition follows a similar move by GitHub, which recently acquired vulnerability scanner Appcanary and which also offers its users a similar set of security tools to alert them of vulnerabilities in third-party libraries.

In a frank assessment of why this sale happened, the Gemnasium team today notes that it was the launch of GitHub’s own security alerts feature (which the founders argue is inferior to Gemnasium’s) that put an end to the startup’s plans. With the vast majority of its revenue coming from GitHub users, the launch of GitHub’s own service — even after bringing Gemnasium into the GitHub marketplace — meant that the service’s churn rate doubled and its monthly recurring revenue stopped growing.

“I know GitHub’s traction, number of users, and free pricing will eventually put Gemnasium out of business in 2018. It is time to find a new home for the team,” writes Gemnasium founder Philippe Lafoucrière.

For those who want the features of Gemnasium without having to use GitLab, GitHub and their competitors to also manage their code and projects, there are still a number of similar services on the market. These include the likes of  Spacewalk, Landscape, CoreOS Clair, Nessus Agents and ThreatStack — a group of companies that both GitLab and GitHub suggest to previous Appcanary and Gemnasium users (until those, too, get acquired…).



A digitizing David takes on photo-scanning Goliath

19:53 | 29 December

 Mitch Goldstone loves photo scanning. His business, ScanMyPhotos, does what it says on the tin: you send photos to the company and, using high speed scanners and special software, his team digitizes your photos, sticks them onto a USB key or online, and sends them back. He is proud of his business. Thanks to his scanners he’s helped users save their photos from tornadoes, floods, and theft. Read More



Beheld is a new startup that lets you scan, send, and print yourself

16:56 | 3 November

Kat Kinkead and Peter Weijmarshausen met at their old company, Shapeways. Weijmarshausen recently stepped down as CEO and was looking for something cool to do when he and Kinkead realized that the most popular application of 3D scanning and printing was in 3D figurines. These tiny action-figure-like representations were wildly popular print subjects back at Shapeways but they were notoriously difficult to capture and print.

Now, thanks to improvements in scanning, color printing, and software, they’re surprisingly easy. Thus Beheld was born.

Kinkead, the CEO, has an MFA in industrial design and has worked in the 3D printing industry for half a decade. She helped build 3D printing procedures for places like Michael Kors and they founded Beheld in January 2017. They’ve raised a small amount of angel funding.

The system is simple: you enter a booth-sized scanner and strike a pose. The scanner takes multiple pictures of your body in 360 degrees and then stitches them together, creating a 3D model that you can share with your friends for free. If you want to print yourself, however, it will cost you about $40.

“What separates us from others in the industry is: We are making 3D scanning an experience,” said Kinkead. “We’re taking the components which already exist, and neatly tying them together to create a truly fun and memorable experience for consumers while simultaneously creating a turnkey experience for businesses. We’re placing scanners in an environment that makes them accessible to everyone.”

The vision is to have 3D scanning kiosks in malls and other high-trafficked places. Because the service is free to try the pair think that they’ll get quite a bit of upsell in the process.

It wasn’t hard convincing users that they wanted to scan themselves. It wasn’t even hard to convince them to pay a few dollars for a 3D print.

“Once the idea comes to mind that they, themselves, could actually be 3D printed, that’s when I would see the true excitement in people. Whether it was simply to have a 3D print of themselves or to use a 3D scan of their body to make items that were customized to fit them perfectly — that’s when the true sparks would fly,” said Kinkead.

The team plans to roll out 3D scanning kiosks in spots across America and Europe. They’ve also created special effects that can make you appear and disappear in fireworks and clouds of smoke, the better to please the Snapchat generation. After all, who wants a selfie when you can make yourself appear and disappear into a cloud of particles?



Topology lets you try before you buy glasses using AR in an app

01:41 | 3 October

Topology Eyewear is an augmented reality app providing custom-fit glasses from a 3D scan of your face.

Most glasses are mass manufactured to fit a supposedly symmetric head. The problem is, most of us are not that symmetrical. The Topology app, available on iOS, uses face-scanning technology to take into account ears that might reach farther back or sit uneven, a wider or thinner nose and other facial factors that can make most glasses not fit as well as they should.

Serial entrepreneur and founder Eric Varady thought up the idea when he was out shopping for a pair that would fit his face in San Francisco’s Marina neighborhood. He was looking at a really expensive pair of frames that still didn’t fit the way he wanted them to when he realized he could create an easier solution from the comfort of home.

Of course, there are already several options to shopping for glasses from home. Warby Parker dominates the market here with a platform allowing consumers to choose a variety of glasses it will ship anywhere and allow you to physically try on before buying.

Rather than shipping myriad glasses your way, Topology lets you see what you’d look like in a variety of frame styles and colors using augmented reality. But, as mentioned above, the real secret sauce is in the custom fit through an ear-to-ear 3D scan of your face.

It works by first taking a video selfie through the Topology app that aims to perfectly capture your facial measurements and then create custom-made glasses without the hassle of bridge slippage or uneven frames. From there you can try on any number of glasses and adjust the lenses for height, width and a number of other features to get the look and fit you want.

The price isn’t cheap for all that, however. Each pair of Topology glasses start at $495 and go upward to $800, depending on the add-ons. Compare that price to Warby Parker prescription glasses, which start at $95, or the average pair of manufactured glasses, which usually come out to $150 to $400, according to an optical labs consumer report.

Varady is betting consumers will be willing to pay the higher price to get an easy remote order with that custom fit.

“Yes, we’re expensive, but really we’re going after the sect in the market that’s already spending that much or more on glasses and lenses combined,” he told TechCrunch. “No one’s ever had custom before and they fit you incredibly well.”

Topology just launched in July and says it has already had orders in the “low hundreds.” It’s now starting up a digital marketing campaign to increase those orders and awareness of the product and has taken in about $4 million in initial seed capital from the founder of OPI nail polish, George Schaeffer, to help it grow.

I tested it out for myself and found the app made for an interesting use of augmented reality software and came with a high amount of frame styles from which to choose. I particularly liked the feature that let you play with lens height and length.

As for how well it fits? You’ll have to be the judge of that for your own face.

You can check out how Topology works in the video below or download and test its tech yourself on the app.



CMU researchers create a huge dome that can read body language

11:09 | 7 July

The Panoptic Studio is a new body scanner created by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University that will be used to understand body language in real situations. The scanner, which looks like something Doc Brown would stick Marty in to prevent him from committing fratricide, creates hundreds of videos of participants inside the massive dome interacting, talking, and arguing. The team has even released code to help programmers understand body positions in real time.

The dome contains 480 VGA cameras and 31 HD cameras as well as 10 Kinect sensors. It can create wireframe models of participants inside the dome. Why? To show computers what we are thinking.

“We communicate almost as much with the movement of our bodies as we do with our voice,” said associate professor Yaser Sheikh. “But computers are more or less blind to it.”

In the video below the researchers scanned a group haggling over an object. The computer can look at the various hand and head positions and, potentially, the verbal communication, and begin to understand when two people are angry, happy, or argumentative. It will also let the computer recognize poses including pointing which means you can point to an object and the system will know what you’re talking about.

Interestingly the system can also be used to help patients with autism and dyslexia by decoding their actions in real time. Finally a system like this can be used in sports by scanning multiple participants on a playing field and see where every player was at any one time.

From the release:

Tracking multiple people in real time, particularly in social situations where they may be in contact with each other, presents a number of challenges. Simply using programs that track the pose of an individual does not work well when applied to each individual in a group, particularly when that group gets large. Sheikh and his colleagues took a bottom-up approach, which first localizes all the body parts in a scene — arms, legs, faces, etc. — and then associates those parts with particular individuals.

The Panopticon isn’t exactly ready for using at the Super Bowl or your local Denny’s but it looks to be a solid enough solution to tell what a few people are doing based on various point clouds of their appendages and actions. They’ve even been able to tell when you might be flicking somebody off.

“A single shot gives you 500 views of a person’s hand, plus it automatically annotates the hand position,” said researcher Hanbyul Joo. “Hands are too small to be annotated by most of our cameras, however, so for this study we used just 31 high-definition cameras, but still were able to build a massive data set.”



MIT researchers used a $150 Microsoft Kinect to 3D scan a giant T. rex skull

00:00 | 7 July

MIT’s Camera Culture group has been able to successfully capture a high-resolution 3D scan of a Tyrannosaurus rex skull using about $150 worth of equipment and some free software.

The skull, which belongs to the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, was discovered in 1990 and is the largest and most complete T. rex skull yet found. However, it has some strange holes in the jawbone that have puzzled researchers for some time. Early on, it was believed that the holes in the jaw were teeth marks. However, the holes are irregularly placed and inconsistent with biting patterns. More recently, researchers believed the holes were caused by an infection from eating diseased prey.

Last year, a group of forensic dentists tried to find out more about the holes by 3D-scanning an image of the skull using some high-tech equipment. However, the skull was too large for their equipment to handle.

MIT’s researchers decided to give it a try recently using the much cheaper Microsoft Kinect, an in-depth-sensing camera and free MeshLab software. Though MIT’s Media Lab does have a prototype system for producing high-resolution 3D scans, that system wasn’t ready yet for such a large scan, so the researchers improvised with the cheaper devices.

That was a pretty smart move, as most high-resolution scanning systems out on the market can cost tens of thousands of dollars for a resolution of about 50 to 100 micrometers. But, the Kinect works just fine for this type of job, with a resolution of 500 micrometers for about $100, enabling researchers to now take a good look at the skull without damaging the original.

Already, the group has been able to observe the mysterious holes taper from the outside in, undermining the hypothesis of a mouth infection. And now that the 3D image can be shared in the cloud, more research can be done to determine what may have happened.

“A lot of people will be able to start using this,” says Anshuman Das, a research scientist at the Camera Culture group. “That’s the message I want to send out to people who would generally be cut off from using technology — for example, paleontologists or museums that are on a very tight budget. There are so many other fields that could benefit from this.”



‘Scanner Sombre’ arms you with lidar for a gorgeous, creepy explore-’em-up

22:53 | 24 April

Something about the polychromatic pointillism of lidar imagery has always intrigued me, but as a writer I can’t say I have many opportunities to use the technology. That’s why I’m excited about a lovely looking new game from the creators of Prison Architect in which you are exploring a pitch-black cave with nothing but lidar.

“Scanner Sombre” was announced today, and the general idea is that you find yourself in a cave in complete darkness, armed with just a lidar scanner and headset. By scanning your surroundings you can navigate and soon find that the cave is more than just a cave. And you may not be the only one in it…

It’s one of those situations where the technology in itself creates a look and feel that’s powerful and strange.

I was curious about the team’s inspiration for using such a unique look. Turns out Chris Delay, Introversion Software’s creative director, was inspired by Radiohead’s lidar-powered music video for “House of Cards.”

“I really wanted to recreate that visual style from the Radiohead video quite closely, complete with the rainbow colors and the eerie, static point cloud that just looks totally alien, and totally devoid of life,” Delay said in response to my emailed query.

It’s rather a different challenge technically, as well; normally first-person games rely on complex polygonal structures and texture maps to create scenes, but Scanner Sombre imitates the lidar style of point clouds very closely.

“It was probably the biggest technical challenge of the project to support such a huge number of points — it can easily be millions by the end of the game,” Delay continued. “We did consider other simpler rendering methods but ultimately, going with such an usual style of point cloud rendering gives the game a pretty unique look, and also provides our core game mechanic. Despite working on it for the best part of a year, it still takes my breath away when I look at the fully scanned world.”

I get the feeling I’ll have the same reaction. Scanner Sombre will be available on Steam come April 26.


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