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By Devin Coldewey
University of Massachusetts Amherst

If you're a biologist looking to capture a 3-D image of the critters you study, it pays to have a system that works fast — and works the first time. After attempted scans of a shark turned out "atrocious," biologist Duncan Irschick and his colleagues at the University of Massachusetts Amherst decided to build their own to make sure that never happened again.

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The result is "Beastcam," a rig with point-and-shoot cameras mounted on flexible arms, allowing pictures to be taken from several angles at once, and in a hurry.

"Current scanning systems, such as laser scanners or CT scanners, are typically slow, and often require bulky and expensive machinery," said Irschick in a news release from the university. "Faster and less expensive alternatives typically are not of a sufficiently high resolution to create detailed models, especially over a short time span. So we created the Beastcam using off-the-shelf materials to provide a portable, fast, easy-to-use, high quality and low-cost system."

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Now he can scan anything from geckos to humans to sharks in a handful of seconds and instantly produce a 3-D model for printing, teaching, or just for posterity.

Irschick hopes to take the Beastcam down to Florida next, to get a good scan of the shark that escaped his attempts last time.