3D landscape scanning sits at the intersection of several emerging technologies.

Creative technologists are now using 3D scanning to create ghostly, uncanny digital replicas of real-world environments. Creative studio ScanLAB specializes in digitizing “real world events or places,” producing 3D scans of environments using advanced laser technology that measures a million points of data per second. This allows ScanLAB to build a model of any space using millions of little dots that are precise to within a millimeter.


In 2015, the company worked with the BBC on the show Rome’s Invisible City, creating a detailed rendering of Rome’s subterranean architecture of tunnels, chambers and passageways, helping to illuminate the role of infrastructure in the ancient Roman metropolis.

With the rise of virtual reality, there is suddenly a new use for digital representations of 3D environments. The company Arch Virtual, which specializes in developing VR apps, has begun to think of “reality as the ultimate VR content source.”

ScanLAB Projects, London. © ScanLAB Projects

3D scanning “can even be an effective means of archiving physical spaces and objects so they can be digitally preserved, such as in a museum setting, enabling remote viewing of spaces or objects that are difficult or impractical to access physically,” company founder Jon Brouchoud wrote. “The possibilities are endless.”

3D scanning technology is also a key component of autonomous vehicles. ScanLAB has produced visualizations of London as seen from a self-driving car. The technology company Velodyne is making similar scanning technology that could help vehicles navigate the surface of the moon or Mars, packaged in a puck-sized device that can add the capability to drones for under $8,000.

For more trends for 2016, download The Future 100.