Laser Chip Of The Future Turns Smartphones Into 3D Scanners

You wake up in the morning. You're late to work, so you request a Lyft from your phone. During a quick break, your coworker buys you a cup of coffee—you pay her back using Venmo. A friend misses your face, so you send her a quick selfie on Snapchat. Your boss gives you a check—you snap a picture of it, and your bank desposits the money. On your way home, you make dinner reservations using Yelp

Is there anything your phone can't do? The parameter of "no" is quickly shrinking. But get ready, because it's about to get even narrower. A team at Caltech has developed a tiny chip—we're talking a millimeter square, here—that can be inserted into a smartphone and used to make 3D scans. Hypothetically, the device could scan a penny then make a (fake) replica on a 3D printer. This itsy bitsy marvel is called a nanophotonic coherent imager, but we can call it the NCI for short. 

Though the NCI is not available for commercial use yet, we have no doubt the technology behind it will advance quickly. Eight years ago, the iPhone hadn't yet been released—what's the new future here?

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