When the Xbox Kinect came out in 2010, most people drooled over its ability to read gesture-based commands.
[More from Mashable: Lytro: Shooting Matrix-Style ‘Bullet Time’ Video Isn’t Far Away]
Matterport founder Matt Bell, however, was more excited about the prospect of low-cost, high-quality 3D imaging.
As a co-founder of a company that makes gesture-based interactive display advertising (such as virtual soccer balls that can be controlled by a kick), Bell spotted an opportunity to create a new visual technology.
[More from Mashable: UK Viewers Will Be Able to Watch the London 2012 Olympics in 3D [VIDEO]]
He ended up using Kinect to make Matterport, a handheld device that instantly creates 3D renderings of any space.
Seconds after pointing the device around a room, you can browse a 3D replica on your laptop.
Here's the simplified version of how it works: The Kinect creates millions of individual images as it scans the room. Bell's software stitches those photos together in real-time in order to create one 3D mesh image that can be tilted, rotated and annotated.
"You can think of it as a giant 3D jigsaw puzzle with millions of pieces that needs to be solved in real time," Bell tells Mashable.
He pitched his latest protoype, which no longer includes an actual Kinect, at startup accelerator Y-Combinator's demo day last month
Matterport is targeting its device toward real-estate agents, architects, engineers of special effects for movies and other people who work with space. Currently these professionals rely on either measuring tape and photographs or 3D mapping tools that don't publish their prices.
Tony Grifsim, the public safety and forensic account manager of a company that makes one such tool, Leica Geosystems, said its prices start at $50,000, but its accuracy is within 1-quarter of an inch and it has a range of up to 900 feet.
Matterport, meanwhile, has a range of about 15 feet and accuracy that varies with distance. He cautioned that comparing the product with Matterport might be comparing apples and oranges.
While Matterport hasn't set a price for the product, it will begin distributing to beta testers next month. Bell says it won't be prohibitive to consumer 3D enthusiasts.
Several of them have already answered the question "What would you scan?" on Matterport's website in ways the company never anticipated.
One family, for instance, wants to capture a 3D image of the houseboat it is moving from so that a young child will remember it. Employees from the USDA want to use Matterport to calculate the square footage of leaves on a plant without cutting them off.
"The power of being able to send 3D realities to each other is going to fundamentally change how we communicate," Bell says.
This story originally published on Mashable here.