Boston STA Gains Efficiency with RICOH THETA X 360-Degree Cameras


“ONCE A WEEK WE GO TO THE SITE,” says architect Bobby Main of STA Design (STA), a Boston-based architecture and interior design firm specializing in multiple markets and often having one thing in common: to conceive something new in the existing one. the spaces. “It’s rare for us to design something from scratch,” he adds, noting that the critical first step in their projects is getting accurate and complete information about an existing space.

Existing data and conditions

Almost all architects and interior designers know the limitations of tape measures and multitudes of 2D photographs. In recent years, new technologies have emerged to address these limitations, including laser scanners that produce point clouds and 3D photography systems like Matterport and the RICOH THETA X camera and suite of cloud applications . STA has often been an early adopter of these emerging technologies, developing new capabilities that advance the firm’s practice for the benefit of its clients.

The THETA X camera became invaluable to us…we started bringing it to every job site meeting as a second tool. We are already talking about getting a second one.

The RICOH THETA X 360 degree camera and its associated cloud applications are the latest digital tool the company has tested deployed. “The THETA X camera has become invaluable to us,” Main adds, “we started bringing it to every jobsite meeting as a second tool. We’re already talking about getting a second one.

An image of the RICOH THETA X camera on an architect’s desk. Popular 360-degree cameras work on their own, integrate with Matterport and similar solutions, and most importantly, work with Ricoh’s 360-Projects and 360 Tours web apps for AEC and Real Estate.

For STA, the challenge of capturing all critical data in existing buildings has many aspects, including cost, time and personnel. For example, while the company has a FARO laser scanner for creating point clouds, Bobby Main notes that setup time alone isn’t always beneficial for various onsite meeting circumstances. “The FARO is not an easy thing to pull out and use,” he adds.

Existing Conditions—STA Process

The standard company process with any project working in an existing structure or site is to capture accurate dimensional data. They rely on the FARO scanner, which produces stitched point clouds. The company also uses Matterport and has now added the RICOH THETA X 360-degree camera which generates spherical images at up to 11K image resolution.

Boston's STA has used THETA 360-degree cameras for recent projects, including this brand new office space for the company.  (see images below for a 360 degree tour in this article).

STA’s new unfinished office space shot with THETA X. (Image: STA / All rights reserved)

Although the process can start with the FARO scanner, it cannot end there. These highly accurate point clouds are processed and assembled in Autodesk ReCap software which then exports them into a format that Autodesk Revit can ingest. At this point, the point cloud data allows the company’s architects and designers to create BIM models for their projects in Revit.

Although the FARO scanner and its point clouds allow for vital steps for a BIM model of existing conditions, there are several process steps that STA requires it cannot follow.

AFTER: Product detail: Ricoh THETA X for the AEC industry

“We, of course, used the point clouds to go back and check things out, but the THETA X was much easier and faster for later data checks,” Main says. Once the company moved beyond point clouds and the BIM model, they used THETA X 360-degree spherical panoramic imagery to virtually revisit the existing project site. And it’s not just because of speed, as THETA X imagery is very high resolution and allows for excellent visual examination of site conditions beyond what a point cloud can provide.

THETA X camera in action in construction.

RICOH THETA X is an affordable and easy-to-use 360-degree spherical high-definition camera system ideal for capturing reality in AEC markets. (Photo: Kevin Marple/Ricoh)

Another factor for STA using THETA X for high resolution spherical imaging is project integration. “We’re a small office of 11 people and we do a lot of projects at once,” Main adds. “Sometimes people need to jump on different projects. We found it very useful to go into the project and familiarize ourselves with the existing conditions and requirements via three-dimensional virtual imagery from photographs.

THETA X and Matterport

“It’s much more cost effective than making more trips to the site,” adds Main, who notes that disturbing the client, a current tenant or even the building owner with access to the space can sometimes be an annoyance. to avoid.

Images taken with the THETA X were dropped into Matterport, a reality capture platform that provides a “doll’s house view” of space mapped by 3D photogrammetry. Below is STA’s new space for its new yet to be built office. (Image: STA / All rights reserved)

Matterport’s technology creates immersive 3D digital twins of existing spaces. While testing the THETA X camera, Bobby Main implemented a Matterport digital twin using a spherical 360-degree photograph taken by the RICOH THETA X camera. Matterport even introduces and sells the 360-degree camera.

However, although Matterport provided a solution for STA, RICOH 360 Tours offers a solution similar to the one Main tested. “I would say that RICOH 360 Tours and Matterport are very similar in creating this tour experience that is so valuable for onboarding staff or guiding anyone through the experience of an environment,” Main says. “And frankly, we could use Tours more in the future.”

RICOH 360 Tours takes the 360-degree spherical photography of THETA cameras and seamlessly stitches together entire building environments. It doesn’t generate a “dollhouse view” like Matterport does, but Main says that feature, while nice to have, isn’t essential.

Example of a virtual tour of an apartment in New York. Photo by Sam Rohn.

“What will help us better is being able to capture more accurate dimensional data from these 3D photography tools,” says Main, who reports that Matterport can be extremely inaccurate. Main says that not having to carry a FARO around all the time would be extremely valuable, so he looks forward to the future when Ricoh adds LiDAR technology to one of its THETA cameras.

THETA X and the build phase

THETA cameras now play a bigger role in the construction phase of buildings, especially when combined with RICOH 360 projects.

“Some of the contractors who build our projects use RICOH 360 Projectsexplains Main. “We can leverage that data, and it’s been really helpful because we can see what the project looked like each week.” Architosh has written about RICOH 360 projects in detail in another article; In summary, the cloud-based app allows 360-degree images to be uploaded into an app where the user can map those images to floor plan files and then link them together into a cohesive virtual experience.

RICOH 360 projects combined with THETA X cameras form a complete system of collaboration between architects and construction professionals.

The side-by-side comparison feature allows the user to interactively compare two 360 degree spherical images of reality capture. When you rotate one image, the other syncs and moves with it.

What differentiates RICOH 360 Projects from RICOH 360 Tours is that the former is a collaboration tool for construction industry professionals that allows team members to pin 360 degree images to floor plans and allows real-time edits and annotations directly on images. It also allows time-stamped side-by-side comparisons of these 360-degree images that enrich the construction progress monitoring collaboration and review process. RICOH 360 Tours is designed to convey the layout of the completed property. Some users even use 360 ​​Tours to show photos of their work in progress.

Some of the contractors who build our projects use RICOH 360 Projects. We can tap into that data, and it’s been really helpful because we can see what the project looked like each week.

“It’s advantageous,” Main adds, “because you can ask ‘oh, was that thing actually installed above the ceiling?’ and go back and watch.Having the ability to step through a timeline and sift through this type of data is invaluable during construction.

Advantages of THETA X

The THETA X 360-degree spherical camera was specifically designed for professionals in the AEC industry, and architects, designers and contractors find it extremely useful, both in conjunction with much more expensive 3D laser scanners and in combination with immersive virtual software platforms. like Matterport.

The THETA X adds value to STA processes, especially at the earliest stage of the project to collect data on spatial and current site conditions. And it adds value during construction by tracking progress week after week. Finally, it benefits the business during all phases where staff need to switch to other projects and integrate quickly.

Architects and engineers, not just general contractors, can benefit from reality capture technology like RICOH THETA X cameras. They offer a cost-effective way to capture and monitor construction progress and existing conditions. , the latter being very important for design and engineering professionals.

THETA X helps AEC users produce immersive real and existing conditions in 3D, share and collaborate on these immersive assets with other project stakeholders.

“I really think just having those eyes on the site because the cameras are capturing things that I might not have noticed when I was there provides incredible value,” Main says, speaking of the advantages of THETA X with RICOH 360 Projects. “So rather than chasing the contractor to go check something out for me or go back to the site, I can pull up these immersive 360-degree images and take a look myself.”

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