Have you heard of Matterport? Matterport is a scanning platform provider that uses bioptic cameras to produce 3D environments. This technology is different from Lidar, which uses laser range finding to create point clouds. At BuildingSP, we've used both Lidar and Matterport because different projects call for different tools. Here's a quick discussion of where and why we think Matterport can be the right answer for architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC).
The elephant in the room
The primary distinction between laser scanning and Matterport is accuracy – laser scans have unparalleled accuracy compared to other technologies. For laser scans, we're used to accuracy in the order of a couple millimeters. For Matterport, we suggest you read this article about accuracy, which will vary with scan coverage. If you have a project that needs to be accurate to the millimeter, laser scanning will always be the answer. However, most projects don't require that level of accuracy, and there are very distinct advantages that come with this tradeoff.
Advantages to Matterport
In using Matterport point clouds, we noticed some clear advantages in the workflow for autorouting. Here are four:
1. Cleaner data: The data from the Matterport system contained less noise than similar laser scan files. A laser scanner produces millions of points of data as it does its laser scan. Contained in this data are points that have hit dust particles and points that have reflected off of shiny surfaces. The Matterport point clouds are cleaner and don't have these artifacts. You can view a sample of Matterpoint point clouds here.
2. Smaller file sizes: The Matterport scanner doesn't produce as much data as a laser scanner, so the file sizes are smaller. If you've done a project with laser scanning, you know how the file sizes can be a major headache. We didn't do a head-to-head comparison on file size, but the Matterport scans are clearly smaller than laser scan files.
3. Better user interface: The web interface for viewing Matterport scans is wonderful. It is very clear what you're looking at and much easier to use than laser scanning point cloud viewers. Matterport penetrated into the real estate market first and the high-end viewing in that market surely benefits the usability for the AEC market. You can explore some of their environments in the gallery section of their website, which visually demonstrates the impressive nature of the user interface.
4. More cost efficient: Matterport's system is less expensive than laser scanners, which means we can afford to do scanning on more projects. The list price for Matterport's platform is currently $4,500, which is significantly cheaper than laser scanners. In addition, it only takes one minute per scan and this is done without registration. From a cost efficiency point of view, Matterport is less expensive on the hardware side and faster in the field.
Benefits of autorouting for MEP
What are the benefits for autorouting in a Matterport scan vs. in laser scans? Cleaner data means less time filtering within point cloud editing software when using Matterport. The smaller file sizes are also better viewed in the Autodesk Revit environment. Often, when we're doing autorouting, we'll find a route that has added bends that we'll want to investigate. Our recent video demonstrates how viewing in the user-friendly Matterport environment can quickly determine the cause and give insight into straightening out the routing. In our video, we used this file to do our demonstration, which you can also explore and view.
Finally, we should look ahead. Matterport is already applying their work to virtual reality (VR), and this will only continue to grow over time. For autorouting, we're also moving into VR. We look forward to the day when MEP coordination happens in VR, which we don't think is too far off in the future.
To summarize, if your project requires accuracy, go with laser scanning. For many other applications, Matterport can be a clear winner when it comes to reality capture. If you're an architecture or contracting firm considering purchasing a laser scanner, you may want to consider owning a Matterport system and using traditional surveying crews for laser scanning when accuracy is critical. There are several use cases for AEC firms (project interviews, field documentation, coordination, BIM) and you should know that autorouting for MEP systems is one of our favorites.
Make sure to check out the work we’re doing in computational BIM and the automation of MEP modeling. BuildingSP is at the forefront of the application of generative design to AEC, and we look forward to better tools changing how we specify BIM on projects. You can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow us on Twitter.