Expertise with point clouds

Point clouds look attractive and quite impressive for non-initiated users. However, some experience is required to navigate with ease within 3D point clouds, to know what view to use and when (perspective for general viewing, orthographic for floor plans, etc.), how to create sections, etc. Overall, extracting information requires some self-training and practice.

3D navigation within point cloud

Images however are easy to understand and do not require 3D-specific learning. This is why all of Viametris mobile scanning systems are equipped with high definition cameras to reproduce the 360° immersive experience. Thanks to the widely available online cartographic maps (Maps, Street View, etc.) it has become natural to scroll through images from a web browser to understand the semantic of a scene. Besides, while images files are usually heavier than point clouds, navigation between images is less demanding for computer than point clouds navigation as the viewer has less to do to adapt to the static point of view.

Spherical image immersive experience

But despite their ease of use, images should not be used as the source of centimeter accurate measurements. The truth of the measurements obtained by a mobile scanning system is the point cloud, displayed in reflectivity. And to smoothly read point clouds on any local desktop software, some specific hardware capabilities are advised: good GPU, good CPU, enough RAM, enough video RAM, etc. These specifications are usually not met by the average office worker or decision-makers whose laptops are usually not adapted to intensive graphic applications.

Solutions are needed to ensure user-friendliness for non point clouds expert, high speed data stream and accurate 3D measurements. Web viewers have been available for years. Surveyors and industrials are now starting to realize their potential in simplifying their day-to-day operations.

Web based viewers

The explosion of the internet bubble in the early 2000s has drastically changed the way we work and think about information. There is no faster way to access information than to look it up on a web browser. Information can be exchanged almost instantaneously through various media such as emails, text messages, asynchronous chats, etc. However point clouds data are usually still exchanged inefficiently through long upload and download cycles.

Online point cloud viewers are software that are web based, accessible by any user with an internet connection. Only a URL, a username and a password are needed to access data. Point clouds and spherical images can be visualized and navigated within. There is no need for local software or upload-download cycles. The question is then: why is it needed to create deliverables such as floor plans or BIM models from a point cloud if this point cloud can be easily understood and accessed by anyone instantaneously?

Surface measurements made from an online spherical images

Reasons for modeling

A few reasons why deliverables (.pdf, .dwg, printed plans, .ifc BIM models, etc.) are created in the first place:

  1. Accurate representation of an environment at a centimeter-level => all of the Viametris mobile scanning system meets these requirement.
  2. Simplification of its understanding using visual conventions (in CAD or GIS formats) => the high-resolution spherical images taken automatically during the data capture with Viametris systems allow for a simple and detailed way to understand 3D spaces.
  3. Easy and fast sharing of the information => Viametris data are compatible with all the available web viewer on the market to ensure a smooth access to the data through the internet.

Outlook

It is likely that in the future, CAD and BIM modelling will be revolutionized. While certain types of modelling may remain (through the use of plugins from a web viewer application for instance), some forms of modeling (especially 2D) may be entirely abandoned.

Point clouds data coupled to high resolution images will be accessed online through immersive visual experiences both by experts and non 3D experts. Lidars data and pictures will also probably start populating most GIS and internal digital twins databases.

The internet keeps growing, its speed keeps improving and the online tools for 3D data exploitation are becoming more widely available. Our mobile mapping systems are at the center of this revolution. Check our products and do not miss the step.

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