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3-D in One

All Olivier Zanen wanted was a cheap and easy way to take 3-D pictures of insects during flight, without having to rely on multiple cameras or expensive laser scanners. So the Cornell University entomologist developed his own technology-a mirror-based contraption that lets a single handheld camera produce 3-D pictures. Zanen’s imager fits like an adapter onto a standard video camera; its two pairs of mirrors capture both left and right views of an object. The complementary images are then downloaded to a PC, where software translates them into a 3-D reconstruction of the object. Zanen cofounded Synceros in Ithaca, NY, to commercialize the technology for an application less esoteric than insect photography: face recognition. Standard face recognition systems typically suffer from false negatives, often failing, for instance, to identify people whose heads are tilted. 3-D facial images contain additional information-like nose length-that helps the software make positive matches regardless of viewing angle. Zanen hopes to have his 3-D adapter on the market in the next couple of years.

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