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Mobile phone technology to build up a virtual 3D environment

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Dr Ioannis Brilakis, Laing O'Rourke Lecturer of Construction Engineering, and his students Abbas Rashidi, PhD Candidate, and Jasmine Hines, undergraduate student, were awarded the best paper award of the 5th International Conference on Construction Engineering and Project Management (ICCEPM 2013). The winning paper is entitled "Distance Measurement in the AEC/FM Industry: An Overview on Technologies". It sets the foundations for an ongoing research project which aims to automatically reconstruct and remodel the indoor built infrastructure by processing basic video clips taken with a smartphone or digital camera. Results of the research are of great interest for finishing subcontractors, interior designers and furniture manufacturers to assist their customers to virtually design and model their homes and offices and choose the right finishes, appliances and furniture.

Research student Abbas Rashidi explained: "Several room design software packages are commercially available and most of them follow the same procedure, that the costumer should provide information about the geometry of the room in forms of measured dimensions or 2D drawings. The software then generates the 3D layout of the room, and the customer can choose and place pieces of furniture and evaluate how they fit.

"This is a valuable approach; however, it requires extra work in terms of manually measuring the dimensions, which can ultimately be exhausting and potentially inaccurate."

To tackle this issue, Dr Brilakis and his group worked on developing a software prototype, based on processing video clips.

Firstly, the customer has to place a simple letter-size sheet of paper somewhere in the room, and then video the room from different views using a smart phone or a simple digital camera. The captured video is sent to a server for processing and generating a point cloud. The generated point cloud using a single camera is up to an unknown scale - however the absolute scale is formulated from the sheet of paper, which can be simply found in every office or home, in the scene. During the processing stage, the sheet of paper with known sizes will be automatically detected and reconstructed along with other features of the scene. After processing, the generated point cloud will be sent back to the customer. The customer can browse the point cloud in a 3D environment, choose and place pieces of furniture, and evaluate if they fit properly.

Sofa Scanned Sofa

A sofa (above) as seen through the virtual 3D environment (below). Credit: Abbas Rashidi

Dr Brilakis said:"The advantages of using this approach are twofold. There is no need to manually measure the dimensions in the room and the customer only needs to videotape the environment; and the generated point cloud of the scene is very similar to the real room from points of color and dimensions so it is possible for the costumer to virtually design the room and try different pieces of furniture."

The ICCEPM 2013 was held last month in Anaheim, California. The conference was co-sponsored by buildingSMART Korea, ASCE Construction Institute and California State University Fullerton. This event was a merging of ICCEM held by the Korean Institute of Construction Engineering and Management (KICEM) and ICCPM by the Nanyang Technological University of Singapore.

Modified from materials provided by University of Cambridge search and more info website.

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