What is Reality Capture and Why Should You Invest in it?

You may have heard the term reality capture before, but what is it, and why are industry leaders jumping onboard? Read ahead to find out.

Conner Jones' headshot overlooking San Francisco Bay
Conner Jones
Dec 14, 2022
What is Reality Capture and Why Should You Invest in it?

You may have heard the term “reality capture” before – but what does it mean and why are industry leaders from the construction and oil and gas industries, as well as non-profits organizations, jumping onboard?

Reality capture is an umbrella term used to describe technologies that are used to capture and record the physical world as digital data. This data can include anything from pictures and videos to 360-degree panoramas and advanced LiDAR scans. Companies can then use this data to build maps and create 3D models that allow them to remotely perform QA inspections, analyze build processes, manage wildlife protection projects and much more. 

Instead of relying on the traditional method of manual measurement and analysis, reality capture allows you to utilize smart technology to create a complete digital picture of what you’re working on. Companies across a wide breadth of industries are realizing a savings in time, money and resources by deploying their own reality capture programs. 

While reality capture technologies have been around for decades, recent advances in technology have made them more accessible and cost-effective than ever before.

Worker piloting drone in a warehouse

How Does Reality Capture Work? 

Launching your own reality capture program may sound like a big technical lift, but the capture process can actually be quite simple. For instance, many innovative leaders in the construction industry have relied on photos captured from smartphones to build out virtual walkthroughs of their jobsites within reality capture software. The photos captured in these virtual walkthroughs are then used to track build progress, ensuring every stage meets design expectations. But, when it comes to reality capture technologies, photographs are just the tip of the iceberg. 

Some more advanced reality capture technologies include: 

  • 3D or LiDAR scanning 
  • Thermal sensors 
  • Drones 
  • Robotics 
  • 360 cameras and much more
Person using 360 camera to create a walkthrough of a job site

Which Reality Capture Tools Should You Consider? 

Which Reality Capture Tools Should You Consider? 

When uploaded into a reality capture software, all of the above technologies can create a digital representation of an object or environment – otherwise known as a digital twin. There is no right or wrong way to capture reality either, as the tool or method you choose will depend on what you’re trying to digitize.

Using LiDAR and 3D Scanning to Capture Your Site 

LiDAR is a form of reality capture technology used to gather detailed information on an object or environment. LiDAR takes things to another level as you can use it to see through things like trees to understand things below or at ground level. This data creates a point cloud or 3D mesh that serves as an accurate digital twin of a real physical site. Many innovative industry leaders will then use these detailed maps to survey and perform inspections without ever having to set foot on the site. 

Aerial Reality Capture 

In the air, drones and UAVs allow you to take a bird's-eye view of your project without ever having to take flight yourself. Aerial reality capture and UAV photogrammetry serve as an excellent method for industries who need a detailed view of large areas or projects that would otherwise take a considerable amount of labor and cost to achieve. Some use cases include, capturing the facade of a tall building or the earthworks phase of construction.

Ground Reality Capture 

On the ground, many industries rely on 360 cameras to take a comprehensive snapshot of their assets. These cameras are particularly useful when trying to build a virtual walkthrough of an area. In some instances, companies will elevate this process by deploying mobile ground robotics to completely automate their capture workflow. 

No matter what tool you choose to create your digital twin, reality capture gives you a digital perspective of your physical assets. But what can you do with that digital twin once it’s created? 

Boston Dynamics ground robot

Why Should You Invest in a Reality Capture Program?

Traditionally, surveying and inspections have been incredibly time-consuming and labor-intensive – and unfortunately, they are sometimes subject to human error. Reality capture technology solves this problem by allowing for the rapid and precise capture of a physical environment, resulting in digital models that are incredibly detailed and accurate. By removing the mundane and time consuming element from surveying and inspections, organizations can realize a significant savings in time, money and resources. 

For example, if a design-and-build construction company wants to perform an inspection of the facade of a building they’d typically have to put surveyors on swing stages to manually capture images of the structure. This traditional method of inspection would require substantial time and effort. It also puts workers’ safety at significant risk. By flying a drone to inspect and create a digital twin of the project’s facade, this construction company can reduce a weeks’ long job to one that only takes a few hours

The benefits go beyond just cost and time savings too. By creating a digital twin of your project and uploading it into the cloud, all stakeholders can interact with a project remotely without ever having to visit the site in person. Stakeholders and project managers can also get real-time updates to track the day-to-day progress of their work, ensuring their teams’ efforts are kept to design.

In another instance, an oil and gas company can use their reality capture program to perform emissions inspections almost completely autonomously. By flying a drone and using intelligent reality capture software, these oil and gas companies can detect signs of methane leaks from the air without ever having to walk the site. As a result, they can both reduce the amount of labor hours needed and potentially catch leaks early. 

The benefits of reality capture are tough to ignore, particularly as technology continues to improve. Whether you need to oversee an entire build from start to finish, or need to perform highly specific measurements of a site, reality capture technology gives you the tools to create accurate and detailed digital representations that will help deliver an overall better understanding of your projects.

Want to learn more about reality capture?

About the Author

Conner Jones' headshot overlooking San Francisco Bay
Conner Jones
Content Marketing Manager - DroneDeploy
Linkedin

Conner Jones currently manages content marketing at DroneDeploy. Conner helps tell the DroneDeploy story across a wide array of social and web channels, showcasing the power of drones and reality capture in a diverse range of industries.