Virtual Reality & Interactive 3D
Tried and tested Virtual Reality or Interactive 3D falls into two main categories, in our opinion. There are lots of other VR technologies around but these may or may not be here in five years time.
This technology has been included on Android devices since 2012. This is a good solution for viewing an enclosed space, where traditional photography or video would struggle. The Photosphere below is best viewed, as a ‘magic window’, with a smart phone or tablet but it can also be navigated with a mouse pointer (for PCs or laptops). These 360 degree images are also easily shared and viewed on FaceBook (and other social apps). In addition they can be viewed with any Google Cardboard VR headset. Several 360 cameras have on the market for several years, starting from around £300.
Photosphere tours- We can also produce VR tours and videos as well as the single shots shown here, this allows the user to jump to various locations, such as the room next door. If required objects can also be made clickable with links to further information. However we feel the jump from one static point to another can be a bit dis-orientating.
Online 3D model viewers
There are several viewers that have been around for about 4-5 years, they use WebGL (and WebVR) which is included in every major web browser. This means 3D models can be interactively displayed on any operating system and any browser, without any plugins being required.
This is a good solution for displaying a central object that can be orbited around (the opposite of a photosphere). The model can be animated and have pop-up annotations attached to various parts.
Other VR technology
We would love to chat about the latest MIT white papers or what the Israeli military is, probably, upto with Google Cloud Services and human recognition. However this website is meant to deal with benefits to our customers rather than tech for tech’s sake. The following is a very brief over view, please ask for more info.
3D Java Applets
We have previously built several online interactive 3D Java Applets ranging from clothing shops, to fully working portable DVD player to adding cosmetics to a photo-real animated human. Due to the security issues, the need to downloading/install Java and the advent of HTML5 we no longer consider this technology robust enough to offer clients. Read our post about the power of WebGL and HTML5
Over the last 7 years Matterport has had £50 million investment which has made it an industry leader in 3D property scanning and viewing. It combines IR laser scanning (to form a 3D point cloud) with photographs to produce a textured 3D model. The beauty of this is that the model is very well optimised, via their Cloud Computing, which makes it fast enough to work in the majority of browsers/devices.
Google Tango has been available for a year or so now and two mobile devices currently support its’ environment scanning capabilities. Matterport has been one of the first companies to produce an Android app that use this data to create and explore the captured environment.
3D models from photographs
Laser scanning has been the traditional way (and most accurate) way of digitizing real world objects into point clouds then 3D models. However as Cloud Computing Services have developed it has been possible to use photogrammetry techniques as well. This means a 3D model can be created by photographs alone (and immense computing power).
Currently processing photos into a 3D model is beyond most mobile devices. However, with the huge increases in CPU/GPU power, the new range of phones with 3D cameras and Google Tango apps will be the technology to watch.
Here is an example of a basic realtime point cloud capture, scanned from a Microsoft Kinect. Move around the 3d space with your mouse button.
Google Street View
It is worth mentioning Google Street View as this really is the grandad of a lot of online 3D scanning/viewing.Now the power of Street View is open to anyone who has a 360 degree camera and a phone with GPS to create their own walkthroughs. Google also gave us the Photosphere, one of the simplest but most reliable ways of photographing and viewing environments.
Microsoft brought out a similar photostitching software, called Photosynth, around the same time. Although very innovative software, which developed way beyond Google Street View, it never really gained enough user traction. So photosynth went the same way as Betamax video cassettes. Here is a Ted Talk on the subject-
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