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With contributions from Lavender Au.

At TechCrunch Shenzhen 2019, TechNode spoke to China-based startups that want to predict medical conditions before they happen and put sports fans on the field alongside their favorite athletes—all through the use of cutting-edge imaging techniques. 

Suanier Electronic Technology uses its Visbody scanners to reconstruct a digital version of the user’s body and map data such as body fat and muscle content. Users can record changes in their health and store these in the cloud, as well as spot health issues before they become serious.

The firm’s biggest challenge was size. While the firm had had the tech to “scan a human in one second” Chu Zhiwei, chief technology officer at Suanier told TechNode, it was far too big for practical use—gyms, for instance, don’t have unlimited space. So they developed a far more compact scanner that rotates.

Chu previously built multiple prototypes for research purposes. But making a physical product is “not like writing software,” he told TechNode. When it shipped early products to Germany for exhibitions, half of them arrived broken. At the start, the team had no one devoted solely to quality control. Now, it’s the focus of over half of its engineers.

Suanier Electronic Technology will offer a professional version for sports trainers and researchers in March 2020. In September, it will launch a home-use version that generates a 3D model and related data in 10 seconds and is around the same size as a set of scales.

Youtube of 3D images

Tabletop 3D scanner startup Kiri Innovation is creating a pool of intellectual property assets related to physical options. Chief executive and founder Jack Wang wants to create the Youtube of physical assets. “Think of the MP3, people started worrying about how to protect the IP of music spreading online and came up with platforms like Apple Music and Spotify,” he told TechNode. Wang wants to do the same with physical objects. 

He envisages a platform called Kiri Hub, where people share, buy, and sell. The starting point is Phiz, a tabletop 3D scanner. A standard 3D scanner connects a camera, laser, or projector and turntable to generate models. Kiri Innovation separates those components and replaces the camera with a smartphone so that users can scan objects and create models more efficiently. 

Wang has met multiple difficulties along the way, he said. The firm first made Phiz for a phone in portrait mode, but problems with distance meant they needed a whole new configuration and it now uses a landscape orientation. 

The scanner has already enjoyed a soft launch thanks to Kickstarter. “We have an animator who 3D-scanned a dragon toy and with that model made a dragon 3D movie,” said Wang. Currently, Phiz is listed on Kickstarter for $229. Once it moves to retail, that will go up to $379, but Wang wants to keep it cheaper than a 3D printer. 

Helmet cams 

Orbi embeds cameras that record 360-degree video into sports helmets, bringing audiences closer to the on-field action. “Fans have been dreaming about this since the TV and Internet were invented,” said Orbi Chief Operating Officer Adil Suranchin. At first, the firm met doubters in the camera industry. A lot of cameras are needed to achieve a 360-degree view, with angles stitched together. Smoothly joining two images, taken from cameras following the motions of a football player in real-time, is no small task.

Cameras aren’t content-aware, they see pixels, not objects. Orbi’s dynamic algorithm analyzes each optical frame and stitches them together, reducing or resizing when necessary, the company said. The three-level software stabilization algorithm calculates the optimal rotation angle at every point in the video to make sure horizons line up. 

Orbi also embeds three IMU chips into the helmet. While it adds several hundred grams in weight, the analytics generated are “worth it,” said Suranchin. Coaches can see a detailed breakdown of each player’s performance and detect concussions quickly. 

The NFL’s billion-dollar streaming contract with ESPN expires in 2021. “Major tech players such as Amazon, Netflix, and Facebook are going to be bidding for those rights,” said Suranchin. He confirmed that Orbi has already reached out to leagues but couldn’t disclose details due to non-disclosure agreements. Orbi will display a prototype model at CES 2020. “5G means everything is possible”, said Suranchin. Without latency concerns hanging over leagues, they could pivot towards streaming services and prompt a reconfiguration of the sports broadcasting industry.

Coco Gao is TechNode's Beijing-based visual reporter. Passionate about producing multimedia content on Chinese tech and industry, she holds a Master degree in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong....

Lavender covers regulation and its effects on people. She previously worked in a policy advisory analyzing China’s internal governance for foreign governments and multinationals. A History graduate from...

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