Almost all advancement, and almost everything if statisticians are to be believed, follows a bell curve. Right now, laser scanning is reaching the peak of its curve with the release of FARO’s Scenect software.

Scenect is a free application based on FARO’s Scene pointcloud software that lets users plug in a Microsoft Kinect or ASUS Xtion Pro Live gaming sensor and create full point clouds of objects using just $500 to $600 in hardware. FARO is daring us to come up with great ways to use point clouds and has essentially eliminated one of the biggest barriers of entry: money. Anyone can use this product, and many probably will.

FARO also has a great series of videos on how to set up and use this combination, as well as how to turn point clouds into workable models. Other extraction goals, like pulling gradient lines from a cloud, can be met using one of the many other apps available as plug-ins for the Scene software.

While it may still look like a toy, every home builder with the word “custom” as a part of their marketing is eyeing this tool. Scanning departments at local colleges have already used the system to copy real-world objects into their databases, and robotics labs everywhere are undoubtedly exploring the application of this tool to simplify their own robotic vision and mapping systems. Certainly an expert in scanning systems, database management, and modeling software would be a valuable consultant to these groups.

What new opportunities can you envision using free software and inexpensive hardware? What challenges do these advances present to professional service providers? Share your thoughts below.