Working on your home can be a great hobby, or an irritating necessity, depending on your point of view. Either way, getting things wrong can be messy, expensive and potentially dangerous. After all, avoiding gas lines, water pipes and wiring is tricky if you don't have an in-depth knowledge of the house plan. That's where WalabotDIY steps in, giving home improvers the ability to see what dangers might lurk behind an innocent wall.
Created by San Francisco-based 3D-imaging sensor company, Vayyar Imaging, WalabotDIY is a compact sensor unit that attaches to the back of Android phones using a magnetic mount. Once it's attached, the sensor communicates with a Google Play app through a USB on-the-go cable, meaning it's not compatible with anything from the Apple stable.
Having connected the sensor to a phone, users will need to calibrate it by waving it in a circular pattern for three or four seconds, but after that it's ready to start peering through walls. Wave the phone over concrete or plasterboard up to 4 in (10 cm) deep and WalabotDIY's creators claim the device will pick up metal or plastic pipes, wiring and studs.
There are two different modes available, one of which simplifies the raw data and displays a simple purple outline of the obstacle to make the information easier to grasp for amateur renovators.
Users craving a bit more detail can run the app in raw data mode, which provides a more in-depth picture of what's going on behind the wall. In this mode users are able to view movement, making it useful for tracking rodents or leaking pipes without cracking the walls open.
As well as offering different viewing modes, the sensor's sensitivity can be adjusted based on the task at hand. Vayyar CEO and co-founder, Raviv Melamed, says running between 60 and 80 percent of maximum sensitivity is ideal for most tasks, but turning it right down makes it easier to get a picture of walls crowded with lots of metal bars close to the surface.
The company says the sensors inside the WalabotDIY are compact, light and power-efficient, and designed specifically to be used with smartphones and tablets. Although Vayyar's low-power radio transmission technology has been used here to help Tim Allen wannabes on their weekend projects, Melamed says it could also be used in everything from medical scanning to food production.
"WalabotDIY takes the guesswork out of your next renovation or repair project. It makes all kinds of home repair and renovation tasks easier – everything from hanging a gallery wall, mounting shelving, locating a pesky leak or drilling into a wall without the fear of hitting a pipe or electrical wire," he says. "While there are many use cases for Vayyar's 3D imaging technology, one of the highest demands we have had is from the home renovation market where 3D imaging makes a wide variety of tasks much easier."
Pricing for the WalabotDIY starts at US$299, making it similar in price to high-end stud finders. Buyers who are early to the party can lock one in for $199, which could be good value considering the cost of damaging a pipe or wire in your wall.
You can see WalabotDIY in action below.