A team of Heriot-Watt University researchers in Scotland, however, have developed a 3D scanner with a very different reach: It scans objects that are up to 325 meters away from it, and will reportedly be able to scan at a distance of 10 kilometers in the future. The researchers documented the results achieved with their functioning prototype in an optic science journal, and according to 3Ders,
The new system works by sweeping a low-power infrared laser beam rapidly over an object. It then records, pixel-by-pixel, the round-trip flight time of the photons in the beam as they bounce off the object and arrive back at the source. The system can resolve depth on the millimeter scale over long distances using a detector that can "count" individual photons.
However, you'll notice that while the mannequin scanned with something approaching fidelity, the face of the Asian gentleman (one of the co-authors of the research paper) is severely distorted:
This would seem to indicate that Asian people are immune to laser beams. For their part the researchers claim that human skin and perspiration muck with the scanning technology, but I think we can all agree that my explanation is more compelling.
As for applications, the team forecasts that their long-range 3D scanner could be used to scan large natural environments, like the side of a mountain, for example. They estimate that "a lightweight, fully portable scanning depth imager is possible and could be a product in less than five years."