Traditionally, laser scanning has been a premium solution for the AEC market. Scanners were predominantly high cost, high accuracy systems provided by a short list of vendors for documentation of existing conditions and QA/QC. In the recent past, FARO took a leading role in driving down the cost of scanners from six figures to five figurers, providing a simpler user-interface and automatic registration to cut the required training to operate laser scanners significantly. Technology’s ever-increasing grip on the AEC industry is further driving scanning to lower prices and easier use.
In this blog post, we detail our experience testing the Matterport scanner. Matterport, a venture-backed scanning hardware and software company, has made their name in the real estate market by providing a low-cost solution for scanning residences for virtual tours. Their tripod based scanner captures a rough 3D scan of conditions, that are then uploaded to their website and processed into a 3D model and a Google Street View-esque tour. The model and tour are sharable, and they provide some basic tagging and measuring functionality.
We acquired a loaner Matterport unit for evaluation and used the scanner to capture one of our JBKnowledge offices. Assembling the unit was a simple process – the scanner assembly screws into the standard tripod. The tripod we were provided had a small level to aid in initial setup. Matterport claims that the unit can operate up to 15 degrees off-level, so leveling by eye should be sufficient.
The Matterport scanner. The back side of the scanner contains a small display and the power button.
After assembling the unit and powering on the scanner, we paired the unit to an iPad Pro by following the steps in the Matterport app. Pairing was simple and we never dropped connection, even when we moved the iPad Pro a decent distance away from the unit in an open floor of the building.
The Matterport app, paired to the Matterport scanner.
After pairing, it’s a simple process to name a project and begin scanning. Scanning is as simple as picking up the scanner, moving it to the scan location, and tapping the scan button in the app. While traditional laser-scan registration is done in complex post-processing software, Matterport’s registration is automatic and performed in real-time as you scan, without the aid of spheres or placards.
Each scan takes under a minute to complete, at which point one can pick up the scanner, move it to a new location, and start another scan. One can expect to take more than a few scans to fully capture an area, as unlike laser scanners, the Matterport can only register scans that are 15 ft away from each other.
The blue dots represent a location where a scan was taken. Note the high density of scans in tighter areas, and the shorter capture distance of the scan in the top right corner.
Once a scan is fully captured, it can be uploaded to the Matterport cloud for automatic post-processing. Once done, the model will be converted into a 3D model and a Street View-esque walk-through.
A high quality capture from the walk-through. The images captured are 360 degrees, so the user can pan around.
The 3D model captured of the same space. Note the blocky quality of the scan in Workshop is not comparable to laser scanner solutions.
The walk-through view is particularly useful for capturing existing conditions. Measurements can be performed on any two points in the captured 360 degree photos, and the 2D quality is high enough to see detail. The 3D models are relatively low in quality and often have artifacts and gaps but provide a decent baseline for rough measurements.
The entire space captured with the Matteport. Note that all the scans have been cleanly, automatically registered.
Matterport Workshop is an additional component of their cloud web app that allows for shared measurement, tagging, and VR viewing of captures.
A floor to ceiling measurement captured in Matterport Workshop, with some additional measurements against the back wall. All users with permissions to see the scan on Matteport Workshop can log in and view the shared markup.
We verified the measurements taken in Matterport Workshop against real life measurements, and found that the scanner had an average 92.5% accuracy within the acceptable scan range.
Matterport can also provide AEC customers with higher quality raw point cloud data to be viewed in an point cloud viewer like Autodesk ReCap. We found the accuracy of the point cloud data to be quite impressive — upwards of 99% in acceptable scanning range. Contractors will need to have familiarity with point cloud processing to utilize the raw point cloud data and take advantage of the significantly higher quality.
A sample of the significantly higher quality point cloud data provided to Matterport’s AEC users.
After evaluation of the Matterport system, we found that it provides a strong solution for two main pain-points. Scanning solutions in the AEC industry are traditionally exceedingly expensive. The Matterport, at its four-figure price range, is a highly affordable option compared to scanners that typically cost upwards of five-figures. Matterport also makes registration a significantly easier process than traditional laser scanning. While some progress has been made in easing the registration process like FARO SCENE’s auto-registration, SCENE still requires training and a $10,000 seat of software to use. Matterport’s real-time automatic registration makes registration a non-issue.
We’re using the reality data we captured to measure and view our existing conditions in 3D, as well as a basis for constructing an accurate BIM model for the remodel.
Matterport and its competition are driving down the cost of scanning at the cost of the sub-millimeter accuracy that traditional laser scanning provides. At a cost of $4,500 for the scanner, and an annual subscription of $500 and up (depending on the number of scans to be processed), Matterport is an attractive option in a world of very expensive laser scanners. When sub-millimeter accuracy or handheld scanning are not requirements, the Matterport is an economical new option to democratize scanning to the AEC industry at an affordable price.
Download the 2016 JBKnowledge Construction Technology Report to learn more on the latest 3D laser scanners and emerging technology in use by construction professionals.
About the Author
Graham Leslie is the JBKnowledge Research & Development Team Lead (JBKLabs), which is dedicated to disrupting and accelerating the architecture, engineering, and construction industries by building solutions with the emerging technology. Graham is a computer scientist with particular research interests in mixed reality and reality scanning. JBKLabs is available for advisory, research, and custom software development services. Learn more at jbknowledge.com/labs.