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SLAM and Drones and HDLS….oh my

SLAM and Drones and HDLS….oh my.

There seems to be new tech, and “reality capture” methods popping up on the daily. The lens that I look at it through though is how can any of the technologies and methods get us to a point quicker and more accurately. No, we’re not in Kansas anymore.

SLAM (simultaneous localization and mapping ) , these devices and specifically the ones developed by GeoSlam, was the first time I bought a demo and did not want the rep to leave my office with what he brought. The conversation went something like this “I’ll take it”. “Okay we can write you up and deliver….” “No I’ll take what you have in your hands right now, how much” and subsequently we bought another. As far as the combination of speed, cost and quality (granularity of data) I have found it pretty remarkable in what it does. It has its limitations though and why we augment SLAM data with other collection methods to get us to a better whole, and again; this depends on the scope of the project.

Many of you, certainly if you are reading this, are familiar with HDLS (High Definition Laser Scanning) which most people just refer to as LIDAR . Why make the distinction? Because LIDAR really is the big tent, laser scanning as a whole, and all the machines, processes are the acts. HDLS typically requires individual set ups, the machines stay stationary and the process while slower and more cumbersome still produces the highest density of data. To help explain this I’ve come up with possibly a slightly less confusing metaphor or perhaps no help at all. Steam, water and ice. With steam water in the gas phase and it’s molecules are far part, relatively speaking, water, liquid phase are tight, and ice, water in solid form the molecules are tighter yet. With scanning the density of the points, like water molecules are tighter or farther apart based on the technology you are using and why we need to use different ones based on the scope of the project.

In the images I have included, the first one is created through HDLS using tripod mounted stationary FARO Focus. If you zoom in, you can see the handles on the cabinets, the images in the painting, etc, this is because the machine takes photos as part of the process, at least in this case) and maps them to the collected points, giving us a true 3D representation of the space, which is the back of a theater by the way.

In the second I have included both the SLAM cloud and HDLS together, you can see where the SLAM backfilled around the objects and the cabinets, giving us data to model from, the extents of walls, heights and profiles of objects, etc.

The last is solely a SLAM cloud, I can tell what and where the objects are but the cloud is just a mass, no photos, and the details/density would not allow us to determine, let’s say, the cabinet handles. Do you need definition of handles? Or in most cases of documenting existing, do you just need a volumetrically correct model that looks good in elevation and model view. We’ve completed projects where the client wanted a 3D database of almost everything because they were retrofitting an HVAC package into an existing and very significant building. They wanted to A) document everything properly and B) be able to fabricate any objects from the data in case they were damaged during construction. This was obviously a case where we needed to create high def scans through out the entire building, in classrooms though, which did not have significant architectural detail we used our own software, PKNail, to create the geometry. It’s the ability to blend technologies and capture methods that allows a service provider to best serve the client from a detail and budgetary point of view.  After you’ve completed the data collection, made sure all the data is registered to each other, even from disparate sources, that is SLAM with HDLS, with Drone captured data, etc. you’ll need to choose whether you want Revit or Autocad…but that’s an entirely different conversation, however, more times than not when using these technologies together you are creating a robust 3D data base of the building that can be revisited for any questions or even new documentation needs.

HDLS Best granularity of data. Point density. Almost all machines are stationary so every shot needs to be set up and registered. Although software advances have helped in automation. Slower process.
SLAM Quick, captures data at walking speed. Decent density for details and over all dimensions. Covers areas well where it has range. Limited range. Occasional hiccups and data “drift”
Drone Quickest, Exterior Only, great for massing and building geometry. Capturing data in hard or inaccessible places. Captures hi-res images of project. Limited data density to pick up details. Object distortion.

Pros and Cons of SLAM / HDLS / Drone ©Pointknown 2018

Below are some screenshots that will put most to sleep but if you’ve read this far, maybe not. The large one is of combined clouds (HDLS / SLAM) of a building we completed in LA.  They were registered together, and rendered in Revit / ReCap.  The first of the smaller ones is a close up of a wall with just the SLAM cloud. The second is the HDLS data overlaid the wall in Revit, the last is just the data. You’ll notice how tight the HDLS Line, with very little spread between the data points. The SLAM data looks faded in comparison and the “spread” between the farthest data point and closest is about 1/2”, that is the HDLS line looks like it was drawing with a ball point pen, the SLAM with highlighter. Experience in dealing with both sets, pro and cons can help.


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Get in the pool! Historic Santa YMCA Begins Its Journey to Return to the Community.

Pointknown tasked with creating a Revit model of an existing YMCA in Santa Ana CA utilized a variety of technologies to capture existing architecture on site. We used a FARO Focus, GeoSlam ZebRevo, Leica Distos and our own PKNail software. And grit, and coffee, and ladders.

Hi Jim, The model is fantastic… 1st Six Words Upon Delivery of our Santa Ana YMCA Revit Model

Troy Fosler – Koning Eizenberg

The historic YMCA located in the heart of Santa Ana abandoned over twenty years ago is set to go under a massive rehabilitation and afterwards be returned to the community.

The proposed renovation of a landmark YMCA built in 1924 will restore the building’s role as a central anchor in the community of Santa Ana. The project aspires to influence positive lifestyles through wellness & fitness programs designed for a variety of local stakeholders.

Having been involved in hundreds of renovation and reuse projects, it’s awesome to be part of one that can have such a huge impact on an entire community. Good on ya Santa Ana I’ll see you in the pool.


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PK Ocean SprayPointknown was tasked with capturing Ocean Spray’s HQ, over 160,000 SF of Office Space and Labs over 3 Floors  set on  hundreds of acres of woods and bogs in Lakeville, MA.  Because of the nature of the building and deliverable we were able to capture the bulk of the features and geometry directly with PKNail Pro, allowing us to measure and model in real time in the field.  Interior Wall Partitioning, Bathroom Layouts, Windows and Doors.  After the geometry was completed we placed the acoustical tile grids, and placed objects directly with the Revit interface.

For surveying and documenting buildings having a set of tools allows a provider to offer the right solution set to your clients.  Not everything’s a nail so carry more than a hammer.  We first developed PKNail Pro because we needed another tool set in the field, and started offering it commercially because clients asked us if we would provide it.  Does it do everything, no; it was intended and designed to capture typical conditions very well, and quickly by turning measurements directly into Revit based objects, walls, windows doors, locate / place wall based objects from plumbing to electrical to fire protection and it does that very well.

Quote of the Project Upon Early Arrival and Hearing Barking/Howling:  “No…those aren’t dogs, those are coyotes.”


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AEC Alliances, Purchases, Cats Living With Dogs

staypuftLike a ship that has long passed ripples from Apple’s long held strategy to combine software and hardware has finally come to shore in the AEC marketplace when Autodesk recently announced a ‘collaboration’ with Leica.  This shatters their long held belief that they would “never partner with software.”  Straight up from the copy on their splash page.

“Smart integration empowers our customers to construct more efficiently and more accurately by making design and reality fit together.”

I have to say this has been a long time coming because if anything Autodesk is excellent at marketing and mostly sort of listening to their customers and marketplace something Leica is beyond woeful at.  They are a classic engineering company who makes great products and convinced of their products greatness believe it will have a market.  I wonder if they have ever in their existence put together a customer focus group.  While Autodesk continues to partner and acquire multiple companies in the 3D and Built Environment space Faro, Leica’s main competitor, acquired Kubit in March.  Trimble now owns Tekla, Sketh Up and Gehry Technolgies . 

What does the Leica / Autodesk union mean?  I would think at least when you need to export point for layout, instead of just picking a generic export you would then export to Leica’s family of products as an option.  Perhaps Cloudworx and Recap combination, as I would believe if you are firing up a Leica scanner, their would have to be some link directly to the Autodesk family.  Is this friendly oligopoly good for the industry.  Well when Windows dominated the marketplace people argues their monopoly was good as it provided a defacto standards, just like Rockefeller argued Standard Oil’s position of owning everything allowed for efficient pricing.


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Trimble Acquires Penmap : Customized Software for The Surveying Market

images_fishSUNNYVALE, Calif., Feb. 15, 2013—Trimble (NASDAQ:TRMB) announced today that it has acquired a suite of software solutions from Ltd. of Bradford, United Kingdom.’s solutions include both office and field data collection software specifically designed for the cadastral and surveying markets. The comprehensive software suite enables Trimble to further address local application requirements and customer needs by providing complete customized surveying software solutions for the cadastral market. Financial terms were not disclosed.

So that’s interesting news.  Penmap’s last press release previous to this one was in 2011.  Additionally they don’t seem to have an ipad app, but rather handhelds and rugged pcs. So what gives.I threw ipad in there only because someone in every meeting will ask you, does this run on the ipad.  Also on there website they refer to technology and laser technology that is a couple generations old.  And while I’m all for acquisitions and exit strategies, this one makes me wonder if they a large government contract hidden somewhere..  Anyway while I was on this thread I though I’d post Trimble Acquisitions from 2012 and through this date 2013.  Let me know if you see the thread.  Except for owning the mapping of the physical and natural world.

Trimble Acquisitions 2012 – Early 2013.

Feb 15th – Penmap (Cadastral and Surveying Markets)

January 3 : ALK Technologies (Transportation and Logistics)

November 2, 2012 : Vico Software (Field BIM)  –    Thanks John for the reminder

October 5 2012 : Refraction Technology (Structural Monitoring Solutions)

September 19 2012: Logicway (Transportation and Logistics: Payroll Automation)

August 27, 2012 : TMW Systems (Transportation and Logistics)

July 2, 2012 : WinEstimator (Construction : Cost Estimating)

June 11, 2012: GeoTrack (Transportation and Logistics : Oil & Gas)

April 26, 2012 : SketchUp (3D Modeling)

April 6, 2012: Gatewing (Survey Solutions : Aerial Mapping)

January 12, 2012 Plancal (MEP Market)






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Happy Thanksgiving Everybody…Who Can’t Get Behind That

Like I tell my kids everyday, we pick people up we don’t put them down.  Enjoy your family and friends,  have an extra piece of pie,  pet your dog,  play touch football.  Just take a minute.


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All Work and No Play : Forget It : Summer Music Addition

It’s summer so get out there.  A real small list of bands worth checking out, and while the venues I mention will have a Boston centric bias, since, well I’m here;  you can do a lot worse then getting out to see the following.

Galactic , and they are playing the Chicken Box on Nantucket on August 13th, if you are on the island, then there is no where else you should be, if you are not, well worth the ferry ride.

Pimps of Joy Time , the sound that these cats put out on stage is tremendous, what they are doing live…tremendous.  I don’t care if you say, “hey funk is not my bag”, wrong, you’ve been carrying the wrong bag.  find them, get the album, buy the t-shirt.  They will be playing the Salem Jazz and Soul Festival, Saturday August 18th, bring the kids.

Thomas Mapfuno, the Lion of Zimbabwe, afro funk acid pop, don’t try to label it and go listen, select tour dates.

Michael Franti and Spearhead,  good message, good vibe, good music, Playing the Life is Good Festival September 22.

Note:  I realize that anyone who gets to this blog is generally following the niche of architecture and technology but this blog, at least intially was intended to inform, but also be a reminder to myself what is happening that is germane in this world, but occasionally the world at large, and lord knows when I am penned inside on a summer day in front, well today, 3 screens, having something playing through pandora or itunes, or finding something on stereomood or soundcloud keeps your toes tapping and your mind from napping.





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Happy 4th Everybody

People all over the world wake up one day and say or think to themselves, “I’ve got to get to America.”  Watching America’s Got Talent last night, because…people reaching for their dreams, I’ll watch it every time but a singer says, “I gave up everything to come to America, because that’s where the opportunity is.”  We’re a nation built on this; of individuals all over the world waking up and saying, “I’ve got to get to America.”

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore.  Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”  We are a nation of strivers.  It’s in our DNA.  So many come here with nothing and make something.  It is this constant regeneration that makes us strong, makes us great.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Go out and pursue some happiness, treat people the way you like to be treated.  Happy Birthday America.  You’re Awesome.



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Trimble Keeps its Appetite Up: Acquires WinEstimator for 5D BIM Win.

Announced today is that Trimble acquired WinEstimator.  This acquisition according the press release is to leverage Meridian Systems Portfolio to add cost estimating and cost modeling, the 5th D of BIM.  WinEstimator was founded in 1992.  Chomp.



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Beat the Heat in Boston

The extremely non-exhaustive list to cool yourself down in and around Boston.

Get to the Beach and then Treat Yourself

Cranes Beach & Wingaersheek Beech, Head north on 128.  Enjoy the water, and then take the short drive to Essex and go get fried clams and soft serve, call in your fried clam order if you can.  Try Woodman’s, Farnham’s (they got picnic tables over looking the tidal marsh) or try the Village, and Essex Seafood, which has always been a solid go to.

Horseneck Beach, terrific beach going south on 24, Westport, MA almost always less traffic, then go to the Back Eddy for something to cold to drink and a snack.

You’re in and around the city.

Find a Roof Deck and/or Pool, a variety of posts on the subject from, but it seems the Colonade for a pool stop is always mentioned. And outside of the city, Indigo in Newton is pretty nice stop.

Walk the Greenway, play in the fountains, get gelatto, try the Gelateria  in the North End.

Have a cold drink in a well air conditioned bar by the Garden, then walk over the river, across the locks into Charlestown and do the same thing there.  Your choice for locations, there are many.  But go ahead and stop at Emack and Bolio’s on the walk back.

Play in the Fountain at the Christian Science Center, walk into the Pru and Copley to soak in the air conditioning, play “how much are these shoes” at Nordstrom.  Have a friend stand back from the shoe tables, have them guess.  Most likely off by a factor of 10, go get a coolata at Dunkin.

If you are feeling particularly flush and it’s after 5, go get a martini at the Oak Room, used to come with side car sitting in ice.  That will frame the rest of your day.  Air Conditioning set on igloo.

Take your dog for a walk at the Middlesex Fells Reservation, or bring him/her to a pond, throw a stick. Jamaica Pond, Spy Pond, Fresh Pond, etc.  You might not get cool, but look at the dog, so happy.  And now I’ve seen Canoe and Kayak Rentals at Spy Pond.

So there’s a start, generally, a cold drink, cone or a slush, water, you get the idea.



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