File this one under 'when you've built a better mousetrap.'

Occipital is a 13-person startup based in Boulder, CO and San Francisco, CA.

They also happen to be the makers of one of my favorite apps for my iPhone, 360 Panorama, which lets you take 360-degree images via the camera on mobile applications.

The Kickstarter drive for their latest offering, the Structure Sensor, set a modest goal of $100,000 for the campaign. It's already reached (as of this writing) a commitment of more than $715,000 and that's testament to both the perceived need for the application and the track record of Occipital.

Aimed at giving mobile devices the ability to capture and translate the world in three dimensions, the Structure sensor purports to be capable of capturing 3D maps of indoor spaces and 3D models of objects and people for import into CAD and for 3D printing.

Available in two anodized aluminum colors, Ice Blue and Silver, it's also a good-looking piece of hardware.

Occipital also has some serious heavyweights in the 3D printing and design world logrolling the project  and touting the possibilities it presents. Those luminaries include Tim O'Reilly, Founder & CEO of O'Reilly Media, Bre Pettis, the CEO of MakerBot, Josh Levine, VP of Engineering at Shapeways.com and Dr. Gary Bradski, President and CEO of OpenCV.

According to the Occipital team, the Structure Sensor was designed specifically to handle the requirements of mobile devices like the iPad. Featuring a capture range which begins at 40 centimeters and stretches to over 3.5 meters, the makers say it can capture "anything from a teddy bear to an entire room."

With an onboard power supply that provides up to four hours of active use and 1000+ hours of standby, the Structure Sensor won't drain the battery in your iPad.

Machined out of a single piece of high-grade aluminum, it is pretty in that 'Apple Way' users love.

Not "officially supported," the Structure Sensor claims to be capable of streaming data to "any iOS device that uses the Lightning connector – such as the iPad mini, iPhone 5, iPhone 5c, iPhone 5s," and that's mighty cool.

You also get a list of features and demo applications which include:

  • Object Scanner: Capture models of objects and export them to CAD software or for 3D printing. You can also upload models directly to Shapeways.com for 3D printing.
  • Room Capture: Easily capture a 3D model of a room by simply spinning around with your Structure Sensor and iPad. Then, tap any two points to retrieve distances.
  • Fetch: A virtual pet to play fetch with, in the physical world around you.
  • Ball Physics: An augmented reality demo where virtual balls interact with the dense geometry of the world.

One great feature for developers is the decision to include demos built on top of the tracking and mapping features in the SDK. Developers will immediately have access to the source code for the demos,  and that will prove to be a popular inclusion indeed.

So where did the idea come from? In November 2011, Occipital began work on the project after playing with a Microsoft Kinect 3D sensor, which takes advantage of the work of Primesense developers, plugged into a high-end desktop computer.

They hated the cord, and so an idea was born.

You can check out the Structure Sensor Kickstarter campaign here and get your own version of the Structure Sensor for around $350 depending on which level of support you choose.