Read the Digital Twin Consortium white paper Reality Capture: A Digital Twin Foundation
Reality capture is a critical component to the lifecycle of a digital twin. Reality-capture technology embodies a set of devices and processes that collect conditions of a physical object or space.
When implemented and managed correctly, these tools accurately and efficiently create digital duplicates of physical things, such as small objects, rooms, buildings or planetary landscapes. The essence of reality capture is to provide insight and awareness through the faithful and transparent representation of real-world conditions.
To understand the role reality capture plays, let’s look at how it interacts with the digital twin lifecycle. The concept of a “Maturity model” – as described in the Digital Twin Consortium whitepaper Infrastructure Digital Twins Monitoring: A Model for Measuring Progress – defines the respective roles and responsibility of owners, architects, general contractors and trade partners, and of vendors, government, standards organizations, authorities having jurisdiction, and society.
So, let’s consider the evolution of reality capture through the lens of the digital twin maturity model:
- Dinosaur (laggard): Active and passive resistance to digital twins. Little or no digitization in legacy projects.
- Average: Passive observers of digital twins. Siloed professions are first to digitize. In the Architecture, Engineering, Construction and Operations (AECO) industry, the effort to digitize is often driven by architects automating the production of drawings or general contractors using models to coordinate and eliminate clashes in the field.
- Leader: Active observers of digital twins. Siloed professions realize that there is mutual benefit in sharing, and this is often done without owner involvement.
- Evangelist: Active prototypes of digital twins. The owners see the benefit and start to define the sharing of data between point solutions, often providing the technology platforms. This integration spreads across all phases controlled by the owner internally.
- Pioneer: Active adoption of digital twins in an entire organization. Eventually, the integration encompasses the complete supply chain.
The Pioneer maturity level does not end the process. Change agents and industry innovators continue to evolve and adapt their processes to create new levels of digital twin maturity. This figure shows how a maturity model might inform the overall adoption of reality capture devices:
Reality-capture technology has rapidly evolved in the past two decades. In 2000, reality capture, then called laser scanning, comprised large bulky equipment costing more than US$100,000. Fast-forward 20 years and simple scans can be created on a phone or commercial camera that cost less than US$1,000.
While scanning is more affordable and more accessible, the results are highly dependent on the hardware and software, requiring the expertise of the operator to navigate both. If well executed, laser scans help to resolve issues and make decisions. That said, the industry is in a state of accelerated change.
So, why is reality capture data not more fully embraced? There are several reasons:
- Not using the right reality-capture devices for the right use case is prone to failure.
- Laser scan files are large, making them difficult to process and share.
- Current software to process laser scans requires extensive training.
- Laser scans and point clouds are not easily viewed or navigated without special hardware and software.
- The workflows are not well documented nor easily understood.
- Capturing scans and assembling them into useable data is time sensitive. Once a project is underway, construction activities are fast moving, making it difficult to intercept.
- Interpretation of a point cloud requires technical expertise.
- The automation required to extract meaningful information is challenging.
To embrace reality capture more fully, we must overcome these obstacles by education in time, scale and intent (use). Reality capture can be more easily adopted by engaging a technical subject-matter-expert that can develop a specialized plan for reality capture that is tailored to a specific industry use case.
To learn more, download the Digital Twin Consortium white paper Reality Capture: A Digital Twin Foundation.