Designing the Next Generation Reality Capture Workflow

Leica Cyclone takes 3D reality capture from field-to-finish

Leica Cyclone Expert Insight
Reality capture technology is becoming increasingly important for many different industries. Today, laser scanning hardware and software products are used by a growing number of industries, from survey and Building Information Modelling (BIM) projects, to oil and gas, forensics and construction, as well as non-traditional industries such as media and entertainment and real estate. This expansion of the reality capture user base has driven Leica Geosystems’ software development in recent years. The Leica Cyclone software family, has made 3D laser scanning projects accessible to a wider group of users by simplifying the entire process - from field to finished product.

Below we will discuss some of the key tenants of the Cyclone workflow.

From field

The powerful Cyclone FIELD 360 in-field software works seamlessly with Leica Geosystems award-winning 3D reality capture laser scanners - the Leica BLK360 and Leica RTC360. With Cyclone FIELD 360 automatic pre-registration and pre-alignment of point cloud data is made possible, allowing easy manipulation of data directly in the field. This is a major step forward in the reality capture arena as it allows users to do valuable work in the field that can significantly reduce or even eliminate major components of their office workflow and add valuable contextual information to a project during the capture process.

Cyclone FIELD 360 leverages the visual registration process pioneered by Cyclone REGISTER to allow users to quickly place scans in relative alignment to one another supporting completeness checks and pre-alignment that can greatly improve the speed and quality of a final registration.



For users who need to produce a virtual tour or to quickly communicate field conditions with other stakeholders, Cyclone FIELD 360 has the capability to publish a pre-aligned lightweight preview of the captured point cloud data, GeoTags, thermal imagery and High-Dynamic Range (HDR) imagery directly to Leica TruView Cloud so that it is instantly available to teams or clients off-site, on any device, in any location, speeding up the decision-making process. Projects can then be registered and prepared in Cyclone upon return to the office for the creation of additional deliverables or traditional design work.

In the earliest days of laser scanning, field work used to require a powerful laptop, backup batteries and multiple operators to complete large jobs. Backup power supplies for the laptop and scanner were a must and weighed up to 15 pounds apiece (for scanner batteries). Jobs that took a month or more to scan can now be scanned more completely and in higher density ten times faster than before. In-field pre-alignment now cuts the office time by an equal amount.

To finish

Thanks to these in-field software innovations, in-office data preparation has been simplified significantly, allowing users to rapidly move from preparation to deliverable creation. Cyclone has been an industry-leader since its creation nearly 20 years ago, and that legacy sits at the core of the product today. The Cyclone REGISTER family allows users to rapidly verify, correct and finalise a registration. Powerful, best-in-class tools have demystified the technical process of registration. With the introduction of true automatic and visual registration, automated cleaning and simple quality reporting, even new or novice users can produce high-quality and professional projects.

Once registered, data moves downstream for deliverable production in a number of products. Users can choose to publish their data in industry-standard formats that can be consumed in third-party design packages, or to Leica Geosystems’ universal format - LGS. These LGS files are powered by Leica JetStream technology allowing users to access all of their project data including points, imagery and supplemental information (GeoTags, metadata etc.) instantly, without import and load times, across the full reality capture tool chain. Many users choose to work with these files directly within their chosen design package via CloudWorx to access the unique reality capture toolset those plugins provide while leveraging the speed and simplicity that LGS files offer. For users who want an all-in-one deliverable solution, purpose built for reality capture design, Leica Cyclone 3DR was launched in 2019. Cyclone 3DR fuses JetStream technology’s centralised, full-scale point cloud management capabilities with automated point cloud analysis and modelling features into one simple, workflow-based software. The workflows contain tailored tools for surveying, construction, and tank inspection applications.



Scalability

A major challenge for the laser scanning industry - especially in the BIM market - is how to collect and render data at scale. Leica Geosystems offers multiple laser scanners well equipped to handle such projects and data. The RTC360 is a traditional stationary 3D laser scanner which can capture up to 2 million points per second and complete scans in under 2 minutes. The RTC360 also includes patented Visual Inertial System (VIS technology) which tracks the user’s movement and automatically pre-aligns scans to reduce or even eliminate the need for user input. These innovations make it possible for users to collect terabytes of data in a day of field collection - a unique challenge for data processing software.

Conversely, the Leica BLK2GO with its untethered design takes its design cues from Leica Geosystems mobile scanning product family and packages it into a hand-held, single-button package perfect for BIM, construction and survey applications. The BLK2GO’s unique design allows users to move freely, capturing large spaces quickly without time spent setting up the scanner.

Both scanners easily produce projects with billions of points and terabytes worth of data. Cyclone, is therefore designed to handle data of this scale and prepare it for use downstream consumption in other software products from Leica Geosystems and in common design packages such as those from Autodesk and Bentley.

Speed

Speed has become increasingly important for project success. Cyclone takes full advantage of the work user’s do in the field to pre-align scans with the RTC360’s VIS technology and Cyclone FIELD 360 then applies multi-threading and multi-core processing to import data quickly and efficiently based on the user’s workstation specs. In most cases, projects that are pre-aligned require minimal input from the user to finalise - reducing the time spent in registering data in the office and preparing it for downstream use.

Of course, project success is not just about getting it done quickly, but getting it done right. Deliverables are only as accurate as the registration they are based on. To that end, data validation has been simplified with TruSlicer which allows the user to conduct visual checks of their registration quality along the X, Y and Z axes. Cyclone REGISTER 360 also introduced a unique quality reporting toolset that makes the accuracy of a project apparent when viewing and editing a project all the way through to the final publishing step. The quality of a registration between any two setups is represented within the 3D data as links of red, yellow or green colour, while the overall quality of the project is summarised with a simple error metric table. For those who want to dig deep into their data quality, tabular tables are available via option in the Report area or in the Review&Optimise area.

Cyclone REGISTER 360 is built on JetStream technology which supports ultra-high speed rendering without the load times or lag that can bog down users with big datasets. These advances ensure users can move quickly from data import to registration and navigate their projects quickly for maximum productivity.

Leica Cyclone family is created end-to-end by Leica Geosystems - all of its components work hand-in-hand from data capture to deliverable to reduce common workflow obstacles and keep users working, not waiting.



Simplicity

In designing the overall Cyclone workflow, we paid close attention to its ease of use. From day one, we knew we were building these products for the next generation of reality capture users - people who have not been surveyors for decades. These users expect a level of performance and simplicity that underlies all of our decisions. With this approach, we have designed our Cyclone products such that even non-technical users can be productive right away. But this philosophy benefits all users - not just new converts.

Examples of innovations we have pioneered include in-field pre-alignment, visual registration, automatic registration, automated cleaning routines, guided workflows and client-ready report templates that take a lot of the guesswork out of capturing good data, preparing it for consumption and producing deliverables. Each of these innovations has built upon Leica Geosystems’ 20 years of experience in laser scanning.

In the infancy of the profession, laser scanning, with a field of view of 40 degrees, used to require a couple of hours to capture a single 360 scan and without targets, registration was a long and difficult job requiring a very specialised skill set and powerful computers. Leica Geosystems pioneered high accuracy targeted and target-less cloud-to-cloud registration, making the task of registration a visual and intuitive process. Large jobs that took weeks to months can now be captured in a few days and registered almost automatically using the latest Leica Geosystems laser scanners. Innovations like in-field pre-registration with Cyclone FIELD 360 and VIS technology inside the RTC360 laser scanner, combined with the powerful multi-threaded Cyclone REGISTER 360 software using Visual Registration have made a formerly very technical, highly skilled job as simple as dragging matching puzzle pieces together.

Not everyone who is part of a project team needs or wants to interact with data through a specialised product. For those users, Leica Geosystems offers simple viewers that can either be accessed online or on their desktop. TruView, which allows dimensionally correct, photorealistic digital reality data can be easily viewed by anyone at any level, at any location and on any device. Users can navigate, measure, Markup and append additional information to projects in the form of GeoTags allowing them to collaborate on reality capture projects internally or with external contractors and clients. Likewise, JetStream Viewer offers and immersive desktop viewing experience for users that is compatible with LGS files. Users can navigate in full 3D or from within setup positions to view the point cloud, imagery, GeoTags and Markups, plus, with the latest release (2020.1), users can load design models into the viewer to conduct visual QA of as-built conditions against design models, visualise new components or buildings in-situ or create crime scene visualisations. In these viewers, we have prioritised simplicity and ease of use by distilling the toolset to the key functions of visualisation, navigation and collaboration.

The Leica Cyclone workflow brings efficiency and productivity to the entire reality capture process. Leica Geosystems’ renowned accuracy is integral to Cyclone. This legacy for accuracy is paired with innovations that simplify the user’s workflow for projects of any size and the result is a simple workflow that guides users through their project, reduces common hurdles and helps users deliver professional, accurate results quickly so users can deliver greater value to their clients.



Guy Cutting
Senior Product Manager, Leica Cyclone
Reality Capture Division

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