Companies to Watch: Accu-Vista

Taking Entrepreneurship to Another Dimension
Companies to Watch: Accu-Vista

Ed Wood says 3D scanning has caught on in Europe, but it is very much an unknown commodity in this country.

Ed Wood has an advantage that most entrepreneurs can only dream about. When he says he has no competition, he means it. There is none. Zero.

“At least on the East Coast, anyway,” he explained. “To the best of my knowledge, there’s no one else doing this.”

But he has quite a disadvantage as well. Indeed, very few people know what this is and how they might be able to take advantage of it.

The product is three-dimensional scanning technology. It’s been prevalent in Europe for many years now, but in this country it is a giant unknown, what Wood, a serial entrepreneur of sorts, calls a “solution looking for a problem — or, in this case, problems.”

He says 3D scanning can be used for everything from helping candidates for plastic surgery find the right look — be it a new nose, chin, or their previous look following a mastectomy — to creating likenesses of a newborn’s face, or his or her entire body.

And he’s confident enough that the general population will eventually grasp the concept that he’s made a substantial investment in new equipment and opened Accu-Vista 3D Scanning in a fourth-floor suite in the so-called Maplegate Building in downtown Springfield. Few customers have made it to that address thus far, but Wood is optimistic that his current awareness-building activities will eventually pay off.

“I think there’s a great deal of potential in this technology,” he said. “People just have to understand all that it can do.”

Wood brings a very diverse background to his current venture. He started out teaching art to high-school students in Wisconsin, and later coordinated all continuing education activities for a large medical center in that state. He later relocated to Beverly, Mass., and became a game designer for Parker Brothers (which was eventually acquired by Hasbro, requiring a move to Western Mass.), and led the group that successfully licensed the characters from the three most recent Star Wars movies.

“Unfortunately, they weren’t as popular as the ones from the other three movies,” said Wood, noting that, when East Longmeadow-based Hasbro decided to transfer many designers to the Beverly facility, he opted not to go, and instead start his own company.

He and two partners developed several concepts for game makers like Mattel and Hasbro, including the Yomega Yo Yo. This company eventually did work for Disney, and developed something called the Pal Mickey, an interactive plush toy that, through communication with hundreds of infrared transmitters in the Disney parks, could tell guests where they were and what they were going to experience next.

The partners in that venture eventually went in different directions, and Wood found himself looking for a new challenge. He eventually found one in 3D scanning, a technology — and potential business opportunity — that he researched for nearly two years before deciding it had enough potential to warrant his investment.

Explaining how the technology works, Wood took a picture of himself (his head, to be more specific) as he sat in a specially designed chair roughly three feet away from the scanning equipment.

A projector essentially projects black-and-white lines, hundreds of thousands of them, that capture the contours of one’s face and comprise what’s known as a ‘point cloud.’ The image is much like a plaster cast, he explained, adding that it sometimes intimidates people because it captures every wrinkle and flaw.

The technology has myriad uses, said Wood, most all of them still well outside anything that would be considered mainstream. The clothing industry, for example, has explored the use of 3D scanning to obtain images that could be used to create perfect-fitting items that account for every curve and bulge. And he expects this use to someday overcome current logistical challenges and become reality.

As for his own business, Wood says a scan can be used to create jewelry featuring three-dimensional images of a newborn’s face. Using high-tech printers, such images can be placed on metal, plastic, and porcelain-like materials. Scans can also be used to make complete dolls that look like a newborn, a product called ‘reborn baby.’ Explaining the concept, Wood said his scans of an infant would be sent to a so-called ‘newborn artist’ — their work is considered a budding cottage industry — who would create a life-like doll.

“Some people think this is a little creepy,” said Wood, “but others are giving it great reviews. I guess it’s up to the individual.”

But the more lucrative uses for 3D scanning invariably lie in health care, said Wood, noting that he is hoping to work with plastic surgeons to better serve clients. He noted that the scanning technology can, for example, help those individuals considering rhinoplasty to find a new shape that appeals to them. A scan can be altered with a few mouse clicks, he explained, giving clients a chance to see a potential new nose, chin, or pair of breasts from every angle.

For those facing a mastectomy, a pre-scan can help recreate a woman’s shape, he continued.

“Many women facing a double mastectomy want to look as much like they did before as possible, because they’ve found that the psychological healing is as important as the physical healing,” he explained. “What I can do is scan them and even have a physical model printed for them, and it will be right there for the plastic surgeon to see.”

Other uses include scans of burn victims to help create well-fitting protective masks that must be worn while new skin grows, said Wood, adding that those in high-risk professions, such as firefighters, police officers, and soliders, should be pre-scanned in case they are badly injured and require reconstructive surgery.

For now, Wood spends most of his time talking about the potential of the technology that he has chosen for his next entrepreneurial venture. He ultimately believes that this potential will be realized, but he is realistic and knows that awareness — and acceptance — won’t happen overnight.

When it does happen, he’ll be fully ready to capitalize on his huge competitive advantage. – George O’Brien

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