Waypoint 2023 is 8 June: Register today!

Reality Capture 101

By Jeff Flores

Men on construction site wearing hard hats with 360 cameras attached

What is reality capture in construction, and what are its benefits, applications, and limitations? We’ve developed this helpful guide to answer these and other questions because we know it can be challenging to keep up with the latest innovation and technology in the construction industry. Let’s dive in.

What is reality capture used for in construction photo documentation, and how does it work?

Reality capture is one of today’s most innovative technologies transforming construction, making short work of processes like jobsite photo documentation—historically a tedious, time-consuming activity. Reality capture solutions offer a welcome replacement for manual methods by letting builders digitally capture, share, and analyze real-world jobsite conditions to move faster and make smarter decisions. These solutions can leverage laser scans, drone images, smartphone photos, or, in the case of OpenSpace, high-resolution 360° images. Historically, reality capture consisted of capturing 360° images with laser scans, but OpenSpace led the way in democratizing reality capture with a more cost-effective and efficient way of capturing with 360° cameras mounted on a person’s hard hat during regular site walks. Once the capture data is uploaded to the cloud, project stakeholders can virtually walk through the jobsite by accessing the images from their desks or anywhere in the world to see site conditions in near-real time and identify issues quickly.

Using a reality capture platform like OpenSpace, small and large builders alike can significantly streamline many of their processes to generate significant cost savings on single projects or multiple projects across an entire company. From reducing travel by as much as 50% and improving communication to strengthening project management capabilities and enhancing QA/QC, companies using reality capture are seeing a significant return on their investment.

What is the difference between reality capture and site capture?

Reality capture is essentially the same as site capture or jobsite capture. The term “reality capture” has been around for quite some time, often used to refer to very high-fidelity 3D captures using laser scanners or LiDAR. However, the lower cost, ease of use, and frequency of capture that OpenSpace enables make the technology an attractive, newer alternative to the more traditional means of capturing.

We prefer “reality capture” as a way to think about OpenSpace technology because our solution goes beyond these inputs to let you capture the way you want, be it with cameras on drones (with support for the Insta360 Sphere), 360° cameras, iPhone and Android mobile phones, LiDAR scanners, and even robots like Spot the dog. Moreover, reality capture enables builders to create a highly accurate and comprehensive digital replica (or digital twin) of physical spaces and structures in near-real time, so closely simulating reality that you don’t even need to be on a construction site to see the latest conditions or track progress.

What is OpenSpace reality capture?

OpenSpace is the global leader in reality capture and AI-powered analytics for builders with projects of all shapes and sizes, whether a quick renovation or a multi-year megaproject. With OpenSpace, you can quickly and easily capture a comprehensive visual record of your construction site to verify work-in-place, simplify dispute resolution, and keep teams accountable. Our AI-powered computer vision and analytics tools give your team the visibility and insights they need with the power to compare BIM to as-built, automatically track progress, and stay on schedule. Our powerful integrations and Field Notes feature help you streamline workflows to enable better communication, smarter resource allocation, and faster decisions. More than 100,000 users in 91 countries rely on OpenSpace to get the job done on time and on budget, every time.

What are the best ways to integrate reality capture into existing construction project workflows?

Naturally, reality capture is used for the process of documentation. It serves as a foundation of images and data that represent the state of how something was built at a specific point in time. Beyond documentation, reality capture can be integrated into construction project workflows through coordination and tracking progress.

Here are some common ways that builders integrate reality capture into existing construction workflows:

  • Using the capture data as reference material during OAC meetings
  • Supplementing the question or solution to RFIs
  • Leveraging capture data to compare site conditions to design intent for quality control purposes

By viewing reality capture data, builders can make informed decisions without having to go to the jobsite. This improves the speed of communication between different stakeholders, allowing the project to progress efficiently.

What are the limitations of reality capture, and how can they be addressed?

There are a few limitations of reality capture, including time, logistics, cost, quality, and data management. Let’s take a closer look at each.

  • Time: Within a project, there will only be a certain amount of time that someone can dedicate to performing reality capture on the jobsite. This can lead to incomplete data for areas that were not able to be captured.
  • Logistics: There has to be some type of organization around the personnel allocated to performing the reality capture and when and where the work is being done. Depending on the type of reality capture being performed, certain areas of a project may not be accessible at the scheduled or desired time. If a structured process cannot be put in place, this could lead to limited data for the project team to work with.
  • Cost: Reality capture solutions are not priced the same way, and approaches can vary depending on the sophistication of the equipment needed. Some solutions require large initial investments that are only used periodically, so it can take a while before achieving a known return on investment.
  • Quality: Depending on the technology, time of day, or existing environment at the time of capture, the quality of the data can vary.
  • Data management: Reality capture produces large amounts of data, so all that data will need to be effectively stored, processed, and managed

There are various ways to address these limitations, including the following strategies:

  • Find a reasonably priced reality capture solution that can be used frequently.
  • Choose a reality capture solution that can process and return the captured data for analysis within a timeframe that still makes the data usable.
  • Use a solution whereby operating the equipment is easy enough that anyone on the project can use it.
  • Create and follow a capture schedule that field teams agree to and can help coordinate timing and area access.

What are the costs associated with reality capture, and how can ROI be calculated?

There are two ways to look at costs associated with reality capture: the cost of the technology itself and the significant cost reductions that the technology creates.

When investigating the cost of reality capture solutions, start by considering your current documentation spend, either the technology you’re currently using or the dollar value of your team’s time consumed by manual methods. Pricing for reality capture software may be determined based on the size of a project site, the type of software or features required, or the frequency of captures.

By way of example, OpenSpace provides flexible pricing based on the products you need and the amount of construction you’re doing. OpenSpace pricing scales with your business to match anything from a quick renovation project to a multi-year megaproject or global portfolio, and annual subscriptions cover unlimited captures and users.

In terms of cost reductions, builders can achieve significant savings in every stage of construction and beyond using a reality capture solution like OpenSpace. Here are just a few ways you can expect to save time and money with OpenSpace:

  • Reduced travel – Stakeholders can walk through sites virtually, and teams can monitor progress remotely, so teams no longer need to travel to jobsites to see the latest conditions, spot issues, or verify work completed.
  • Fewer destructive investigations and less rework – There is no need to open up walls, cut into ceilings, and demo slabs when you can effectively see right through them to understand what’s installed.
  • Discounted insurance premiums – Carriers recognize that reality capture creates greater visibility, which in turn reduces risk and uncertainty in construction and simplifies claims. In return, some firms like Shepherd offer reduced premiums to builders that use this technology.
  • Faster and more robust site documentation – When you add up the hours your team spends every week taking manual photos, the number can be staggering. Adopting a passive, automated method drastically reduces the time spent on documentation while also delivering far greater detail and coverage of your jobsite.
  • More effective field notes and RFIs – Using a solution like OpenSpace that automatically maps field notes to the floor plan can speed up core processes like change orders, RFIs, and quality assurance and improve coordination in just a couple of clicks.
  • More efficient image organization – Organizing, searching for, and sharing images with stakeholders is a time-consuming and seemingly never-ending effort. Using a reality capture solution, teams can easily find the right images and send them to stakeholders in a matter of a few clicks.
  • Improved safety and QA/QC inspections – Reality capture provides a complete digital record of the jobsite, which makes it far easier to conduct safety inspections, submit safety reports, and do QA/QC on completed work.
  • Better closeout package creation – Using reality capture, teams can quickly compile 360° images into a comprehensive closeout package for facilities teams to make it easier for them to maintain the building over its lifecycle.

To help you evaluate the potential impact of a reality capture solution on your company’s operational efficiency and competitiveness, we’ve published a whitepaper, The Real Value of Reality Capture: Understanding the Business Impact for Builders, which includes examples and first-hand accounts from several top builders across different sectors, a checklist for choosing the right solution, and a customizable ROI calculator to estimate the time and money you can save using OpenSpace reality capture—and the new business you can generate.

Do you have other questions we didn’t cover? Could you use some expert guidance to start using an automated 360° photo documentation solution? Let’s chat and explore how OpenSpace can help you achieve your goals.