Scientists invent 3-D printer 'teleporter'

"Scotty can help preserve the uniqueness and thus the emotional value of physical objects shared between friends," researchers said.
By Brooks Hays  |  Jan. 23, 2015 at 11:28 AM
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POTSDAM, Germany, Jan. 23 (UPI) -- Scientists at the Hasso Plattner Institute in Potsdam, Germany, say they've invented the world's first teleporter. Naturally, it's named "Scotty" after Star Trek's enterprising engineer Mr. Scott.

"We present a simple self-contained appliance that allows relocating inanimate physical objects across distance," the researchers wrote in the paper submitted to the Tangible, Embedded and Embodied Interaction conference, held this week at Stanford University. "Users place an object into the sender unit, enter the address of a receiver unit, and press the relocate button."

That _sounds_ like a transporter, but it's not so much a teleportation device as it is a next-level scanner and 3-D printer separated by time and space.

On one end, the machine destructively scans an inanimate object, layer by layer. The detailed information on that object is then sent via a closed communication system to a 3-D printer located elsewhere. There, the object is recreated in full.

There is one other caveat. The teleporter can only recreate plastic objects made out of a single material. Try to teleport a book, and the person on the receiving end is simply going to a get a plastic cuboid.

But, the researchers add: "Scotty can help preserve the uniqueness and thus the emotional value of physical objects shared between friends."

Right now, there aren't a lot of practical applications for Scotty -- aside from earning clicks from curious social media users. But eventually, scientists say, the device could be useful for companies looking to sell their goods to 3-D printer owners.

"Scotty can address some of the licensing issues involved in fast electronic delivery of physical goods. We explore the former in an exploratory user study with three pairs of participants," researchers wrote.

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