Andrew Wheeler posted on October 01, 2018
In late August of 2018, Matterport announced that users of the 3D scanner and cloud-hosting service have uploaded 500 million virtual tours of locations around the globe, adding up to over one million tours in their digital tour library. (Image courtesy of Matterport.)
Receiving venture capital since 2015, State Auto Labs recently joined the ranks of past Matterport investors including Lux Capital, DCM Ventures, Ericsson Ventures, Qualcomm Ventures, Ericsson Ventures, AMD Ventures, Felicis Ventures, AME Cloud Ventures, Navitas Ventures, News Corp, and Sound Ventures.
Matterport’s products and services are minimal, streamlined and easy-to-use: Users download a custom “Capture” app to their iPad or iPad pro and connect it to a purchased Matterport Camera (Matterport Pro2—USD 3295), or Leica BLK360 laser scanner—which can be used in tandem with a Matterport camera—and they can 3D scan any indoor area by taking 1-400 scans, uploading them to Matterport’s Cloud Service (for a monthly subscription fee) where they are processed and hosted. (Image courtesy of Matterport.)
Matterport users show their captured scans in virtual tours after perform finishing work on them in Matterport Showcase, a visual tool set to polish out imperfections. Then they make them available in 3D on the web, on mobile devices and even in virtual reality without much effort.
The Matterport Pro and Pro Lite enable users to capture high-quality 4K 2D photography, floorplans and other key assets to enable complete documentation of a property's features, dimensions, conditions and contents at any point in time. The Leica BLK360 laser scanner allows users to combine the accuracy and range of a laser scanner with the Matterport’s proprietary infrared (IR) scanning technology.
When Matterport Met Leica
With the addition of the Leica BLK360 scanner to Matterport’s suite of products, the company enabled users to extend the range of each individual capture and improve the overall quality of the scanned area. You can use the Matterport Pro2 3D camera and the Leica BLK360 together or separately with Matterport’s Capture app. The Matterport Pro2 is a more practical choice if you need to scan an area quickly, or if you need high quality panorama data for pre-construction and construction documentation, or for inspection purposes.
The Leica BLK 360 (USD 16,000) is better than the Matterport Pro2 at capturing larger spaces with less complicated geometry in brighter conditions. Since the Leica BLK 360 captures more data, it takes about ten times as long as the Matterport Pro2 to capture point cloud data. (Image courtesy of Leica Geosystems.)
Though there are two alternative apps to use the Leica BLK 360 on its own, one from Leica and Autodesk’s ReCap app, the Matterport Capture App is extremely easy to use, and it allows users to combine the strengths of the Matterport Pro2 camera with those of the Leica BLK360. With both pieces of equipment, users can combine IR data with point cloud data into a virtual tour hosted on Matterport’s cloud-based service. This allows users to extend the range of the Matterport 2 camera and eliminate pesky limitations of using the Matterport alone—like the inability to scan and capture bright locations. The LiDAR technology of the Leica BLK 360 extends a Matterport user’s ability to scan and capture larger and brighter environments both inside and outside, leading to a completer and more holistic scan of a building or facility.
Matterport for AEC and BIM
If you choose to capture a space with either device separately, AEC professionals can manipulate it in a couple of different ways: Once the data is captured by the Matterport camera alone, you can download an obj. file or point cloud into into 3rdparty modeling applications like Sketchup, Revit and ArchiCAD.
For USD 49, users can purchase a Matterpak Bundle and download multiple assets including a colorized point cloud (.XYZ), a reflected ceiling plan image (.JPG), multiple files for multiple floors (.PDF), a high resolution floor plan image (.JPG) and a 3D mesh file (.OBJ). (Image courtesy of Matterport.)
In pre-construction stages—post bid—after the architecture and engineering are selected for a project, and using old architectural drawings is a common practice that can lead to many change orders during the course of a project. The architecture and engineering contractors must use these old drawings to proceed or survey the site and perform surveys in person and by hand.
The Matterport suite is used to perform surveys in place of a high-end laser scanner which can be extremely expensive (especially if you are re-doing electrical and plumbing from scratch), or in place of hand-drawn surveys which are very time consuming. Matterport point clouds are designed to be interoperable with BIM stacks that use Revit, ArchiCAD, Bentley and other common CAD software for engineers and architects.
Instead of drawings, repeated visits or using an unnecessarily expensive laser scanner to get the job done, the engineer or architect arrives on site once, scans with Matterport and then leaves. At home or the office, they extract the point cloud, import it into their preferred 3D modeling software, and then use the Matterport walk-through as a visual reference to their 3D modeling. They have their captured point cloud in their modeling software on one screen, and the Matterport showcase open on another tab or screen.
With traditional surveying done by hand, the architect or engineer would take photographs and sketches, but would usually need to return three or more times to the construction site. With Matterport Showcase open as a 3D reference tool, modeling with the captured point cloud allows them to refer to a virtual copy of the site for guidance.
But what about the accuracy of more expensive LiDAR scans?
Most high-end LiDAR scanners offer sub-5 millimeter accuracy compared to Matterport’s solution, which has more significant drift error—1 percent of ground truth—which can translate into a drift of one to a few inches, depending on the size and characteristics of the commercial space being surveyed.
The burden of field validation is usually pushed onto the contractor, and customers who use Matterport know when it makes sense to use Matterport for drawing or survey accuracy. Say they are redesigning a school building and they don’t need the sub-millimeter accuracy of high-end 3D scanning tools, Matterport can be used to improve the accuracy, speed and cost of surveying versus drawing and surveying by hand.
The point cloud produced by Matterport is 25 times smaller than a high-end laser scanner point cloud, which can slow down BIM software like Revit or even make it crash. Matterport point clouds are smaller and less dense, and there are more ambiguities as a result. If an environment has complex geometry with complex systems, then a high-end LiDAR scanner may be worth the hassle, but Matterport fills a middle ground and makes no bones about it—they don’t pretend to be a one-size-fits-all solution for every scenario.
Matterport and AI
Matterport uses AI for 3D reconstruction process of user’s scanned images, helping the software stitch 3D scans together faster, and to improve various other features of their structured light scans. They’re also using it to automatically recognize and identify different types of rooms—a valuable tool for different aspects of facility and property management including facility inspection, mortgage appraisal, insurance appraisal, and insurance risk evaluation for example.
Matterport’s huge database of 3D scanned locations puts the company in a unique position of having not only the largest 3D database in the world, but a 2D image database to match with it. This is beneficial for new applications, since computer vision works much better with 2D images than 3D models. Matterport is using this cache of data for object recognition—using deep learning to correctly identify different objects found in their huge database of 3D scans.
Service, maintenance and construction documentation of a building could be captured and updated throughout the lifecycle of a building or series of buildings with a more comprehensive BIM integration.
The Future of Matterport and BIM
Matterport is working with BIMobject, who possess the largest library of BIM objects, to integrate BIM information into their Mattertag system. BIM for facilities management is usually used for design and construction, but there is a lot of potential for BIM to be used for facilities management—to keep track of maintenance information of every part of a facility. Part of the agreement between BIM Objects and Matterport is to create a viable system for facilities managers to keep track of every area of their facility in a similar way to BIM is used for design and construction.
Scanning the different stages of a building’s or facility’s lifecycle—known as milestone scanning—will help facility managers who use Matterport keep track of any construction, service, repair or maintenance done on their facilities throughout their lifecycle.
Matterport is uniquely positioned to move forward into the age of artificial intelligence with that massive database of as-built 3D models and the 2D imagery to match it.
But for now, we'll just have to wait and see what's next.