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Last Updated: Thursday, 29 April, 2004, 08:24 GMT 09:24 UK
Firm's 'ground-breaking' ID technology
By James Kerr
BBC Northern Ireland business editor

A Northern Ireland company says it has developed a three-dimensional computer scanning system which puts it at the leading edge of this developing technology.

Biometric scanning of faces is one of the systems being considered by the government to provide unique identification for identity cards.

Axis 3 - based at the University of Ulster campus at Jordanstown near Belfast - has been working on its system for more than a year.

The technology takes three scans from different angles

It is raising its second round of venture capital funding to commercialise its research.

The company is located in the Harry Ferguson Engineering Village, named after one of the region's most famous inventors and the man behind the Ferguson tractor. He was also the first man to fly on the island of Ireland.

Management at the company believe their technology is equally ground-breaking.

The system works by taking three scans of any object from different angles.

The data from these is then processed by computer, to provide a three-dimensional image that contains the individual characteristics of the object.

While many companies are working in this area, Martin Bradley, the chief executive of the company, says that they offer an "end-to-end solution".

"What is different about what we do is that we have developed all parts of the system, from the scanner that is the hardware, to the software that drives it, to the viewer for viewing the image," he said.

"We also have a unique way of texturing the image. There are a number of potential applications for the technology.

James Kerr getting his three dimensional scan
James Kerr gets his three dimensional scan

"In cosmetic surgery the patient wants to see the end result.

"By taking a scan and then manipulating the image, the surgeon can show the before and after."

Axis 3 has recently returned from the Cebit trade show, the biggest technology trade show in Europe, where the system generated considerable excitement.

"We also see enormous potential in the e-commerce market," said Mr Bradley.

"Most of the internet is in two dimensions. With our technology you can see a high resolution image of the object in three dimension before you buy it.

"Then there is the computerised games market. People increasingly want personalisation.

"We can take a scan of someone head, and have them playing along with their favourite sports star, or killing their boss in a war game.

"Beyond that we see uses in areas such as clothing design and of course security.

"We've had several enquiries since then, with one contact wanting to take on the distributorship for Australia."

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