Beyond the visible
Author: Monica Miller Rodgers
Wouldn’t it be nice if you could measure within a photo? Just take the photo on a device, touch the photo between point A and point B, and acquire the exact measurement you need?
The thought of this ideal situation was the starting point for the BLK3D development team. The result is the latest BLK innovation: a handheld device allowing for in-picture measurements. Now capturing multiple accurate measurements at once really is as simple as taking a photo on your smartphone.
The Reporter sat down with Johannes Hotz, business director, to learn more about the new BLK3D.
The BLK3D is the newest in a line made for professionals who need simple measurements in their daily work. Can you tell us more about the innovation?
When we initially analysed the market, reviewed competitive product offerings and conducted several interviews with existing and potential customers, we quickly realised that there is a huge demand for a tool that captures visual information, and provides inspection grade-3D measurements that are automatically indexed to structural plans as well as location and date stamped.
There are several, image-based collaboration platforms out there. They take millions of photos to document construction site progress, however, not a single of those pictures allows you to determine the exact position of a pipe that now, for example, may be hidden by natural construction site progress.
The BLK3D delivers on all afore mentioned needs. It is a handheld, Android-based, 3D, in-picture measurement system and project organiser powered by photogrammetry and innovative edge-computing. It creates a completely new market category for measurement and documentation related devices. It enables professionals who need measurements to carry out their daily tasks to effortlessly capture and manage digital data. Plus, it works both indoors and outdoors. This ensures the support of many use cases across many different industries – from the Architecture, Engineering, Construction (AEC) market, forensics to supporting insurance companies and loss adjusters.
When starting the project, what was your target to achieve?
We wanted to establish a cross-functional, multi-cultural team of specialists around the world to achieve something great. We wanted to use the great technologies we have available within Hexagon and create a product that - at this point in time -simply didn’t exist. The entire development team had one major target - bring a vision to life, develop exclusive technologies and make those available to the widest variety of people who never thought this would even be possible – the BLK approach. We used existing technologies, re-invented them in terms of how we use them, miniaturised the system, and made it for real time.
How does the BLK3D work?
If you can take a photo with your smartphone, then already have all skills you need to use the BLK3D. Simplicity was the most important design principle throughout the entire project.
To be more precise, the BLK3D uses on-device edge processing to make multiple, 3D image measurements available on the device in real time. Users only have to take the photo, and then they can create 3D measurements in a 2D photo.
Once captured, all visual measurement information is indexed and automatically stored in chronological order, together with all assigned tags. Those measurements can then be exported as pdf and shared with other project team members or sub-contractors. There is even the option to create or digitise 3D objects (points, lines, areas) out of the image and export those into various CAD formats.
Ultimately, there is the possibility to create BLK3D floorplans. Here, the user can attach BLK3D images to each wall of the room and review those images over time. Meaning, users can document entire construction progress and review and measure it at any point thereafter.
Finally, we developed a new desktop application that allows users to comfortably measure in the BLK3D images and easily organise all projects and photos ever taken.
Who is the BLK3D made for?
Keeping in line with the values of the BLK line of simplicity, seamless integration, design orientation and highest quality standards, we designed the BLK3D so it provides quick and precise measurements in the most simplistic way possible.
The capturing, visualising and indexing of the 3D measurement information with on-device edge processing allows for instant interaction. Especially beneficial to those in structural work in the different mechanical, electrical and plumbing (MEP) stages, along with architectural, facility management, window fitting, insurance adjusting, public safety and utility professions, the BLK3D reduces time and resources required to measure and document a job accurately.
What benefits will customers enjoy with the BLK3D?
The main benefits are time savings and simplicity. As mentioned before, there is nothing simpler and quicker than taking a photo of an object and then having the option to measure everything captured in 3D.
The BLK3D combines sensors and software in one handheld device. All captured data is processed on the device itself and measurement information is immediately ready for user interaction, significantly decreasing the time of traditional methods. There is no need to be connected to a network or cloud to access image-based measurements, and the imagery is incorporated into different construction phases, automatically creating a chronological project progress history. Next, there is familiarity and simplicity. The user experience of the BLK3D is based on familiar swiping gestures and straightforward, self-explanatory app functions. No additional training is needed to use the already-familiar device. Then there are precise results. The BLK3D provides high accuracy, ensuring you have the right information with no need for rework. Finally, there is the all-important safety. From a single image and remotely, users can access all the information needed – height, width, depth and area. No longer needing to access hazardous spaces, crews are kept safer on site.