Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Measure Mate

Ever wondered how far away that mountain is from you, or that building, or what the distance is between you and that tree, or that car in front of you? With Measure Mate, your speculations need no longer lead you astray. This new idea, based on a new product, takes the form of an app for future smart phones with 3D cameras. It’s only a matter of time before smart phones are equipped with 3D camera (2 lenses) functionality and that’s when this new app idea gains credence. Measure Mate is a distance measuring app, based on triangulation calculations, rather than echo or laser techniques. Triangulation means calculating all the sides and angles in a network of triangles based on the length of at least one side of a triangle. Therefore, the precise measurement of the length of a single baseline can determine the scale of an entire triangulation network. In other words, if you take a picture of a tree with 2 cameras placed exactly 5 cm apart (or any other distance), you can calculate the exact distance to the tree in the pictures. Triangulation is not a new technique, astronomers have been using it for years to calculate distances to stellar objects (see parallax), and neither is stereoscopic imaging for creating the illusion of depth in 2D images a new idea (see stereoscopy). But Measure Mate is. Once smart phones include 3D cameras, the exact length of the first side of the triangle becomes a constant. 
This is how it works:
  1. You take a picture with Measure Mate (which is really two pictures: one from each lens).
  2. Measure Mate superimposes the images one atop the other to create a new picture.
  3. You select an object to which you want to know the distance in the new picture.
  4. Measure Mate triangulates the distance to the object based on the distance between the two lenses.
You can read more about the necessary calculations here.

Measure Mate should be extremely cheap and easy to program – all the formulas already exist and all the technological concepts already exists. The most expensive budget item would probably be copyright protection for the app. I also think the potential market for Measure Mate is virtually limitless, from civilian to military markets, who wouldn’t pay just a few dollars for this piece of product innovation? Or forget about selling it, make it a free app and capitalize from advertising.
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