“There’s an emotional connection that people make with physical objects that is not informed by logic,” St. John says. “To me, it’s super interesting how you can build connections for people between moments, experiences, and materials that all kind of come together as something they care about deeply.”
St. John’s interest lies in the tactile world of materials, and how physical things can be translated into digital ones, and back again. “I kind of grew up inside of a machine shop,” he says, “I was just always building stuff.”
He came to HP about four years ago after an eclectic career in jewelry design, 3D design and manufacturing, and a stint in the research lab of the man credited with inventing 3D printing. He first joined HP’s Immersive Computing group to lead project management for 3D, where he contributed to many experimental ideas and projects including 3D scanning, FitStation and the Z 3D Camera.
He brought to HP what became Project Captis, a prototype device that uses a type of 3D imaging, called photometry, to capture virtually any material and render it digitally (Think: pebbled leather, the jagged crack in a sidewalk, the scales on a reptile’s skin, or the weft and warp of a woven fabric.)
There has been tremendous interest in Project Captis from diverse industries such as fashion, automotive, architecture, and gaming. Project Captis isn’t yet commercially available, but is currently in beta testing with potential partners, St. John says. “They’re banging down our doors to get their hands on this device.”