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OpenSpace Prototypes 3D Scan With New iPhone LiDAR

By Chris Balandran

October 13th, 2020

3D Field Notes in OpenSpace

For the last few months, ever since the release of the iPad Pro, we have been experimenting with Apple’s new LiDAR sensor. The results have been great, and in anticipation of the launch of the new iPhone 12 with LiDAR, we invested in some R&D on a feature that we call 3D Scan™. While this feature is currently just an experimental prototype and is not available in OpenSpace at this time, we think it would make a great addition at some time in the future. We’d love your feedback on it!

At OpenSpace, we always have an eye toward the direction we believe technology will go in the coming months, years, and decades. To create the best products for our customers, we are committed to staying at the forefront of these trends. 

The goal of this feature would be for our customers to be able to create 3D scans using just an iPhone and the OpenSpace app. This would be a huge leap forward for the construction industry, as it would allow teams to not only share 360° photos and do virtual walkthroughs but also to accurately measure and quality check three-dimensional spaces from within a remote platform like OpenSpace. 

How LiDAR Works on the iPhone

Apple unveiled the new iPhone 12 today and announced the higher-end models will come with a LiDAR scanner for the very first time. Apple included this LiDAR module on their most recent iPad as well, which allowed us to play with the new hardware ahead of the iPhone announcement. With this change, a whole new world of applications is now opened up. LiDAR is a powerful technology that has been used by various industries for decades. But until now, it hasn’t been available at the fingertips of millions of people who carry a smartphone device in their pocket. 

LiDAR stands for Light Detection and Ranging, and it works like this: laser beams (yes, really!) are shot from the scanner and bounce back. The scanner is able to then measure distances and depths based on the information it receives. That information can be used to create point clouds, which would allow OpenSpace to map three-dimensional spaces on your construction site. 

Scanners used to be the size of a microwave oven, and even today, typical industrial-grade scanners are cumbersome and cost tens of thousands of dollars. Putting this capability in your phone and in your pocket is truly revolutionary and will have major benefits for AEC.

How 3D Scan Would Work in OpenSpace

To understand why 3D Scan would be such a game-changer for the construction industry, consider the fact that one of our top requests from customers is the ability to take measurements within our platform. This capability would allow our customers to ensure the installation of materials or equipment is feasible, verify that proper equipment and materials are installed, and more. 

Perhaps in the future, with LiDAR on the iPhone and 3D Scan in OpenSpace, this will all be possible. We envision that the customer experience would look something like this: 

  1. During a job site walkthrough, you pull up the OpenSpace app on your iPhone and click a button labeled “Create 3D Scan.”
  2. You then scan an object, area, or room with LiDAR, by panning back and forth across the visual area you want to capture.
  3. When this is done, you click “Finish” and your 3D Scan will be saved to the appropriate location on your project plan.
  4. Then, your co-workers back at the office, in other parts of the country, or even across the world, could open the 3D Scan in OpenSpace to explore and measure the space.

While 3D Scan wouldn’t be a required part of using OpenSpace, we believe providing this option to our users might add a lot of value. Be sure to follow the OpenSpace Blog for more updates on this emerging technology and future product updates. 

If you’re not yet working with OpenSpace, don’t hesitate to reach out and learn how we can help you better manage your job sites with 360° photo documentation.