What Is Reality Capture?

by Kylee Swenson
Infrastructure - Sep 12 2017 - 1 min read
Final mesh of Glen Canyon Dam with reality capture.
Final mesh of Glen Canyon Dam. Courtesy Autodesk/BOR.

The traditional method of capturing site conditions for builders, architects, and engineers hasn’t changed for centuries. Generally involving a level, a tape measure, a theodolite to gauge horizontal and vertical angles, and a lot of number crunching, it’s a tedious, time-consuming process for surveyors to collect data point by point. The outcome is documentation that’s often incomplete or inaccurate.

Why is this a problem? Growing numbers of public buildings and infrastructure around the world are aging and in danger of failing. Many were built before CAD, using traditional survey methods, and it’s difficult to manually cross-check old paper blueprints with real-world site conditions to get repair and rebuilding efforts underway.

Reality capture—the process of scanning an object, building, or site and producing a digital model representation—allows today’s builders to capture site data quickly and more accurately than ever before and connect it directly to the digital design process. The result is a comprehensive 3D model based on millions of data points mapping the entire site, whether it’s a building renovation or an infrastructure project, often including a look at the systems that function below the surface.

Here is an introduction to the tools and techniques of reality capture and how the technology can be used—as it was on Glen Canyon Dam—to protect the aging infrastructure around the world.

what is reality capture

Images courtesy Autodesk/BOR.

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