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3D imaging technology adds a new dimension to phones and apps

Business users will be able to take advantage of 3D imaging technology in the Windows 10 Creators Update and the rumored iPhone 8.

Three-dimensional imaging technology could play a much bigger role in business, as large vendors incorporate these features into their biggest products.

The 3D imaging process renders three-dimensional graphics on a two-dimensional surface. Rumors peg Apple as including a 3D camera in the next iPhone, which could lead to 3D mapping and augmented reality (AR) becoming more commonplace in business. And Microsoft will add 3D imaging capabilities to its Paint and Office apps as part of next month's Windows 10 Creators Update.

"3D technologies are revolutionizing business," said Patrick Moorhead, president and principal analyst of Moor Insights and Strategy, a tech analyst firm in Austin, Texas.

Some interesting use cases today include mapping environments to get directions to locations and mapping property to present to prospective buyers, Moorhead said.

The iPhone 8, expected to come out this fall, will have a 3D camera that can detect the distance between the subject and the camera, as well as other physical objects, according to a report from KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. These 3D sensors are the company's answer to Google Tango, said Bob O'Donnell, president at TECHnalysis Research LLC in Foster City, Calif.

Tango allows smartphones with 3D sensors built into the cameras, such as the Lenovo Phab Pro 2, to take pictures of objects, save their measurements, and then create proportionate digital images on the screen when the user is in a different environment. For example, someone could take a picture of a couch in a furniture store and then display the 3D image on the phone in their empty living room to see how much space the couch would take up.

3D technologies are revolutionizing business.
Patrick Moorheadpresident and principal analyst of Moor Insights and Strategy

"For your camera to accurately portray an AR view, you have to have a sense of where physical objects are in space," O'Donnell said. "There are a lot of exciting elements to this."

Developers could use 3D imaging technology to build apps that store maps of buildings' hallways and room interiors. A realtor or architect showing a layout of a building or home could use 3D imaging features to map out physical infrastructure changes or furniture layouts.

"That kind of thing becomes more interesting and possible with 3D visualization," O'Donnell said.

3D imaging technology in Microsoft Office

With the new capabilities in Office and Paint, users will have the ability to capture a 3D image with a 3D-enabled smartphone or handheld camera, and then display and edit the image in those apps. Support for 3D images in PowerPoint could make slideshows more dynamic, for instance, if an employee is presenting a new product design.

"Teams can present a demo of a product design very easily without needing any expertise around 3D modeling and graphics," said Shahroze Husain, research associate at VDC Research Group in Natick, Mass.

Additionally, 3D graphics could enable presenters to add a third axis to a bar graph. For example, a salesperson could make a 3D graph with data about different regions, people and products. The third dimension allows the user to add more information and makes the graph more dynamic.

"That applies to anyone in any industry," O'Donnell said.

Next Steps

The future of mobility is on the fast track

The Windows 10 Creators Update top predictions

Augmented reality apps hit the enterprise

Dig Deeper on Enterprise mobile app strategy

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