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3D Digital Twins vs. 360 Photo Documentations: Similarities and Differences

CupixWorks can transform 360° video footage into 360° virtual tour and 3D dollhouse. Gain visual insights into your jobsite condition from various perspective, from ground level and above.

Visual and spatial site documentation is incredibly important in various industries as it forms a critical foundation for successful project execution, analysis, and decision-making. It involves capturing and recording spatial information about existing conditions, dimensions, and the overall context of a site. Accurate site documentation is vital for tracking progress, ensuring compliance, facilitating communication, and supporting strategic planning.

In the construction industry, site documentation plays a crucial role in ensuring project quality, identifying issues, preventing miscommunication and rework, tracking progress, promoting transparency among stakeholders, and keeping projects on track and within budget. Similarly, in civil engineering, site documentation supports activities like land surveying, infrastructure development, and environmental assessments. Additionally, other fields such as archaeology, architecture, real estate, insurance, and urban planning rely on site documentation to fulfill their specific needs.

According to GlobalData, the digital twin market is projected to reach $17 billion in 2023 and is expected to grow to $154 billion by 2030, exhibiting a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 36.3%. This significant market expansion underscores the growing recognition of digital twin solutions across industries as a means to advance and optimize spatial site documentation practices and related processes.

This article compares two notable approaches, 360 photo documentation and 3D digital twins, which aim to address common challenges and improve the efficiency of site documentation. Furthermore, we introduce the innovative technique of "3D Digital Twin Creation from Consumer-Grade 360° Camera," which combines the benefits of both approaches.

How Do 360 Photo Documentation and 3D Digital Twins Differ?

360 photo documentation is a popular technique involving the use of consumer-grade 360° cameras for capturing panoramic photos or videos to create a virtual tour of the site. This easy-to-use method, widely adopted by busy engineers onsite, brings a novel way of recording existing as-built site conditions for visual progress sharing or evidence collection for potential future disputes. Vendors like OpenSpace, the now DroneDeploy-owned StructionSite, and Holobuilder, currently under Faro, fit into this category.

By contrast, 3D digital twins represent a more complex approach to site documentation. This method captures the site context in 3D, usually using reality capture systems such as drone photogrammetry or laser scanners. Despite its higher costs and the need for specialized expertise, it’s seen as invaluable in industries like construction, civil engineering, and facility maintenance for its ability to provide both visual context and measurable dimensions. However, it’s typically limited to well-funded or mission-critical projects due to its high resource demands. Top vendors in this field include Matterport, NavVis3D, Faro, Leica, Trimble, DroneDeploy, and Pix4D.In the realm of 3D digital twins, there are emerging technologies like mobile phone-based photogrammetry and the LiDAR capability found in some mobile phones. These advancements, exemplified by solutions such as SiteScape, now owned by Faro, Polycam, and OpenSpace's iPhone LiDAR scan support, offer intriguing possibilities. However, it is important to note that their primary focus is on capturing 3D objects rather than entire sites or scenes. As a result, while they can be valuable utility features offered by vendors, they may not serve as the primary method for creating comprehensive 3D digital twins of sites.

The Pros and Cons of 360 Photo Documentation

This section provides an overview of the advantages and limitations of 360 photo documentation, offering insights into its strengths and potential drawbacks.


  • Simple and cost-effective
    Only a consumer-grade 360 camera is required, making it accessible to individuals with basic photography skills.
  • Easy to collect visual information
    A single video footage can capture an entire scene, providing a comprehensive view of the surroundings and reducing the need for numerous photos
  • Provides visual documentation of a site
    This documentation holds value for various purposes, including documentation, presentations, remote visual inspections, and as evidence of work for potential disputes.


  • Lack of depth information
    360 photos provide a flat representation, making it challenging to measure distances or understand spatial relationships.
  • Limited interaction and visualization
    Viewers are typically limited to navigating the image from a human-eye perspective, without the ability to explore the scene from a bird's-eye perspective or in a more interactive manner.
  • Limited mapping accuracy
    In mapping, 360 photo documentation may not offer optimal accuracy, leading to potential locational confusion when comparing captures from different dates or design data like BIM.
  • Only visual comparison with BIM
    When comparing captured images with a BIM model or other data sources, 360 photo documentation has limitations. It primarily serves as a visual reference for comparison rather than directly integrating or aligning with the digital model.

360 photo documentation offers a simple and cost-effective method for capturing visual information of a site. It can provide stakeholders with an immersive view and serve as a valuable visual documentation tool. However, it is important to consider the limitations of 360 photos, including the lack of depth information, limited interaction and visualization, limited mapping accuracy, and the reliance on visual comparison with other data sources. By understanding these pros and cons, you can make informed decisions about when and how to best utilize 360 photo documentation in your specific projects or applications.

The Pros and Cons of 3D Digital Twins 

In this section, we will explore the pros and cons of utilizing 3D digital twins. This technique provides a detailed spatial representation of a site. However, there are also potential challenges and drawbacks associated with its implementation. Let's delve into the advantages and limitations of 3D digital twins.


  • Provides detailed spatial representation of a site
    This approach captures extensive spatial data, leading to a highly realistic representation of the site.
  • Versatile applications
    3D digital twins can be utilized for various purposes, including

            ○ As-built 3D documentation
            ○ Survey-grade QA/QC (e.g., flatness, plumbness, controuting)
            ○ Day-to-day QA/QC (e.g., pre-concrete pour, rebar spacing, component placement)
            ○ Scan2BIM or Scan2Drawings (creating as-built BIM or drawings)
            ○ Progress tracking
            ○ Safety inspections
            ○ Logistic planning
            ○ Program planning


  • Complexity and cost
    Implementing 3D digital twins can be complex and expensive due to the specialized equipment and software required for data capture and processing.
  • Specialized expertise or permits
    Utilizing this technique may necessitate specific expertise or permits to ensure accurate data acquisition and adherence to regulations.
  • Cost scalability
    The costs of 3D digital twins can escalate with increasing site size. Larger areas may exponentially increase the time and resources required, making it infeasible to use this method.

3D digital twins provide a detailed spatial representation of sites, facilitating a broad range of applications across diverse industries. Nevertheless, implementing them presents challenges including complexity, costs, specialized expertise requirements, and potential cost scalability with larger site sizes.

Here Comes the Game-Changer — “3D Digital Twin Creation from Consumer-Grade 360° Camera”

Fueled by groundbreaking technological advancements, an innovative trend is emerging that masterfully blends the benefits of both 360 photo documentation and 3D digital twins. This pioneering approach, known as "3D Digital Twin Creation from 360° camera," is led by industry forerunners such as Cupix and Matterport.

The new approach takes advantage of utilizing a consumer-grade 360° camera, similar to other tools used for 360 photo documentation. However, what sets it apart is its ability to generate a 3D map using AI technology. This combination of a familiar tool and the innovative application of AI creates a unique and novel solution. Consequently, it fills in the voids left by 360 photo documentation by offering depth perception, a bird's-eye view of the site, dimensional measurements, and an immersive integration with the BIM workflow.

Can Consumer-Grade 360° Cameras Replace Specialized Hardware in 3D Mapping?

When it comes to data accuracy, utilizing AI and computer vision technologies and video footage from an off-the-shelf 360° camera to generate 3D maps falls behind laser scanners. The price tags of specialized hardware solutions are often reflective of the level of accuracy users can expect. 

Therefore, for use cases that require survey-grade QA/QC or highly accurate Scan-to-BIM, relying solely on 360° video-based mapping is not suitable. Specialized hardware solutions remain indispensable for achieving the highest levels of accuracy and data quality in these scenarios.

3D Still Reigns Supreme Over 360 Images

Once again, despite the fact that laser scanners offer highly accurate data, they typically entail substantial resource demands and costs. On the other hand, Cupix's 3D mapping capability opens up a wide array of thrilling possibilities. Our user-friendly interface and cost-effectiveness position our solutions as an accessible do-it-yourself (DIY) tool for creating as-built 3D documentation, enabling a diverse range of use cases. 

Let's delve into the specific ways in which 3D Digital Twin Creation from 360° cameras can add substantial value across a multitude of industries.

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  • Unlocking the Bird's Eye Perspective
    A 3D map provides remote collaborators with a comprehensive view from above, allowing them to gain a deeper understanding of the site conditions and valuable intuitive insights. On the other hand, 360 photo documentation only offers perspectives limited to the camera locations.
  • Information Geo-Tagging in 3D Coordinates
    3D coordinated geo-tagging of site information, such as issues and annotations, minimizes misunderstandings and miscommunication among stakeholders, thereby promoting more efficient collaboration and reducing reworks.
  • Dimension Measurement
    3D maps facilitate a range of measurements, including distance, volume, spatial clearance, and topography, serving applications such as site surveying, quality assurance, logistics planning, among others.
  • In-Depth Integration with BIM/VDC Workflows
    The 3D as-built context can be deeply integrated into BIM workflows, streamlining processes such as installation verification, coordination with subcontractors, and enabling eFacility, which uses BIM as the central representation of the facility once construction has been handed over to the owner.
  • Scalable Construction Project Tracking
    Vendors such as OpenSpace and Buildots utilize AI photo analysis for monitoring project progress. However, methods that rely solely on photos can potentially hinder scalability over time. By leveraging the 3D map, automatically generated from consumer-grade 360° cameras, this solution can prove to be more attainable and cost-effective in the long run.
  • Geo-Centered System Integration
    3D geo-tagged site context functions can be used as a powerful, unified data hub throughout built-world ecosystems, covering areas such as project management, safety inspection, facility maintenance, asset tagging and tracking, and GIS.

So, What Makes Cupix Unique?

Cupix is spearheading this transformative wave with its unparalleled "3D Digital Twin Creation from Consumer-Grade 360° camera" solution. Utilizing our proprietary AI-Engine, Cupix can convert user-captured 360 videos into 3D digital twins. What distinguishes Cupix in this arena is our simplification of the process, high-quality 3D map generation, all-encompassing integration with BIM, and the ability to utilize traditional 3D digital twin data from laser scans or drone photogrammetry for BIM verification. 

Moreover, Cupix's 3D maps have the potential for applications beyond traditional use cases. With our affordability and accessibility, we enable individuals to discover creative and innovative ways to leverage 3D mapping technology. These maps can find utility in diverse fields, such as engineering-level site survey, yard condition documentation, and integration with Computerized Maintenance Management Systems (CMMC).

To experience the transformative power of Cupix's solution and unlock a new era of 3D digital twins, get in touch with our team and start your journey today. Discover the simplicity of the process, 3D map generation capabilities, seamless BIM integration, and explore the endless possibilities for creative applications. Join us in shaping the future of site surveying, documentation, and beyond.

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Effortlessly archive rebar inspections with a streamlined solution. Access visual reference and comprehensive data for easy retrieval and analysis. Experience the convenience of a centralized rebar inspection archive, ensuring efficient organization and enhanced accuracy.
Effortlessly archive rebar inspections with a streamlined solution. Access visual reference and comprehensive data for easy retrieval and analysis. Experience the convenience of a centralized rebar inspection archive, ensuring efficient organization and enhanced accuracy.
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3D Digital Twins vs. 360 Photo Documentations: Similarities and Differences

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3D Digital Twins vs. 360 Photo Documentations: Similarities and Differences