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.