“Selfie” pop culture phenomenon grows into big business
The role of 3D printing and 3D scanning in evolving selfie trend
According to Wikipedia, a selfie is a self-portrait photo, typically posted on social media sites. You might be surprised to learn that self-portrait photos have been around since the 1800s, taken with the earliest generation of cameras. But the term “selfie” didn’t appear on the scene until 2002.
As much as many of us wouldn’t care to admit, we like to see our own likeness; we can’t help but peak in whatever mirror or storefront we pass. It’s a phenomenon that seems to cross age, gender, geographic, socioeconomic, religious and cultural borders and selfies are a reflection of this phenomenon (no pun intended). Just in the last couple of years we saw comedian, Ellen Degeneres, take the famously viral selfie at the 2014 Academy Awards, US President, Barak Obama, took a selfie during Nelson Mandela’s funeral and let’s not even talk about the Kardashians. We can log into Facebook or Instagram at any time of any day and can be certain of seeing numerous selfies.
As a society, our light-hearted fascination with selfies is not only undeniable, it’s evolving into big business and profits, thanks to affordable, photorealistic colour 3D printing and 3D scanning technology.
The Selfie Trend
The first recorded self-portrait photo was taken in 1839 by photography pioneer, Robert Cornelius, by removing the lens cap, sitting across from the camera for a minute and then replacing the lens cap. The self-portrait became more widespread in 1900 thanks to the early-generation Kodak Brownie box camera, whereby the person balanced the camera on an object or tripod and stood in front of a mirror.
The word “selfie” first appeared on September 13, 2002 on ABC Online Australia in a post by Nathan Hope, “Um, drunk at a mates 21st, I tripped over and landed lip first (with front teeth coming a very close second) on a set of steps. I had a hole about 1 cm long right through my bottom lip. And sorry about the focus, it was a selfie.”
Since then of course, the term has become part of our daily vocabulary. It’s an approved Scrabble term, Time magazine considered selfie one of the “top 10 buzzwords” in 2012 and in 2013, selfie was designated the “word of the year” by the Oxford English Dictionary. And, if that’s not enough, consider these 2013 stats:
- Selfies comprise 30% of the photos taken by young adults ages 18–24.
- Instagram has over 53 million photos with the hashtag #selfie.
- Selfie was included in Facebook posts 368,000 times during a one-week period.
- The hashtag #selfie was used in more than 150,000 tweets on Twitter during a one-week period.
In order to capitalise on this explosive trend and make taking selfies easier and more flattering, camera and smartphone manufacturers developed 2D technology enhancements, such as selfie sticks and the ability to preview your selfie photo before snapping the pic.
From 2D to 3D
But what do selfies have to do with 3D scanning and 3D printing? The definition of what a selfie is has evolved over the last few years. Today’s selfies aren’t limited to you snapping quick 2D photos of yourself using a smartphone and sharing them on social media. Instead, you can be quickly and easily scanned by another person using a 3D scanner, or even scan yourself, and then produce your likeness in three, physical dimensions on a 3D printer.
The explosive increase in awareness and use of 3D printing has certainly contributed to, if not driven, this trend. Additionally, both 3D scanners and 3D printers have independently become far more affordable while their technical capabilities have expanded, making it easier and more accessible than ever to capture scan data that is 3D printable.
The introduction of sub-$1,000 USD, highly portable 3D scanners, such as StructureIO, Kinect, Fuel3D, David Scanner – not to mention smartphone 3D scanning apps – most of which can capture colour, combined with affordable, photorealistic colour-capable 3D printers, have transformed the concept of selfies.
From 3D to big business
When people first learned that the 3D scan-to-print capability for producing 3D selfies exists and is affordable, it was largely used just for personal amusement – a fun chatchke for your desk at work, for example. However, in the last few years, entrepreneurs quickly saw the opportunity to develop profitable full-time and side businesses around 3D selfies thanks to lower cost, colour-capable scanners and affordable photorealistic colour 3D printers. After all, keepsakes and other products centered around weddings, babies, pets, and children never go out of style.
In a recent article, Steve Heller of The Motley Fool, explored whether the 3D printed selfie is just a gimmick or has true, long-term business potential. His premise is that the operating cost of the printer, and therefore, the cost to produce the 3D printed selfie and the cost charged to the consumer, must be in the $20 to $30 dollar range in order to create viable businesses around 3D printed selfies. There are a few reasons for this. Heller believes that, like 2D selfies, 3D printed selfies will be an impulse purchase and most consumers are unlikely to make $200-$300 impulse purchases. In addition, the cost of the floor space required for this offering at retail is high and necessitates high revenue. Lower cost selfies will reduce the barrier to entry for most consumers and therefore increase revenue to offset the floor space dedicated to the offering.
Selecting a 3D Scanner and 3D printer for today’s 3D selfies
There are a staggering number of 3D scanners and 3D printers from which to choose, and selecting the right ones for your 3D selfie application can feel like a daunting task.
Here are the most important items to keep in mind and capabilities to look for in a 3D scanner and 3D printer for producing today’s selfies:
A suitable, professional-class 3D printer will print what the 3D scanner captures, so the quality of the scan significantly impacts the quality of the final 3D printed model. Factors that generally govern “quality” of scan data are mainly:
- Accuracy (global), the overall accuracy of the model, and is somewhat hard to quantify, unless compatible with and utilising photogrammetry “targets” as part of the process
- High resolution for capturing detail and staying accurate on small radii, providing point spacing less than or equal to that of the printer
- High-quality Colour (or texture) data capture (greater than 1 megapixel) and reproduction with constant and bright lighting conditions, ideally incorporated into the scanner
- Colour export capability, with texture maps, i.e.; .WRL or .OBJ file formats
- Photogrammetry capability if global accuracy of prints is important
- Portable, easy to set up and use
- Full, photorealistic 5760 x 1440 x 508 dpi bitmap The ability to apply any colour, anywhere. Inclusion of ICC (International Colour Consortium) Colour Map.
- Professional accuracy; x, y & z axis: 12µ, 12µ, 100µ (0.0004in, 0.0004in, 0.004in)
- Low running costs; under $1.00 USD inch3
- Safe, Green and eco-friendly process and materials
- Office friendly and easy to use; without chemicals, fumes, toxic particle emissions, manual cutting tools, mess and special facility requirements
- Durable and stable 3D printed models
2D selfies aren’t going away anytime soon. But a growing population is discovering a more tangible and realistic way to preserve their images: 3D selfies. The evolution of the selfie phenomenon will continue. We can envision the possibility of snapping a selfie on your smartphone and sending it to your own photorealistic, low-cost 3D printer.
And, as 3D scanner and 3D printer costs continue to decline and low-cost 3D scanners keep pace with the extraordinary output quality of affordable, safe and photorealistic colour professional 3D printers, like the Mcor IRIS, we can expect to see an increase in new and existing businesses, large and small, private and public profiting from 3D photos and selfies. But in order for this to become a reality, the cost to print a selfie must be affordable for consumers. The material must be durable and not prone to breakage and, above all, it must be safe. Mcor Technologies’ low cost, safe and eco-friendly paper-based 3D printers, and their industry-leading photorealistic colour capabilities, are best positioned to make this a reality.
To learn more about Mcor’s True, full-colour, SDL paper-based 3D printing technology, download: