Entire building exterior 3D-mapped with tablet

14 January 2016
By Jack Loughran
Mobile version
Share |
The software analyses individual pixels to create the 3d model

The software analyses individual pixels to create the 3d model

Researchers from ETH Zurich have been able to create an entire 3D model of the university’s main building in just 10 minutes using a tablet equipped with a fish-eye lens.

The research forms part of the development process for Google's Project Tango which the search giant has been working on for the last three years.

The 3D model is compiled from multiple images that are taken on a tablet with an integrated fish eye lens camera. The system uses triangulation in a similar fashion to geodetic surveying, which is a method used to account for the curvature of the surface of the earth when conducting geographical surveys.

The software analyses two images of a building's façade that were taken from different positions. For each pixel in an image, it searches for the corresponding element in the other.

It is then able to determine how far each picture element is from the device and uses this information to generate a 3D model of the object.

Earlier 3D mapping systems lacked detail and were restricted to the outlines of buildings and basic features such as window openings and doorways. One method projects a grid of infra-red onto an object which is captured by a camera to generate a three-dimensional map of the object.

"This technique works well indoors," says Torsten Sattler, a member of the research team, but he says that it is poorly suited to outdoor shots because sunlight contains light on the infra-red spectrum that interferes with the results. "Outdoors, our method has clear advantages,” he says.

The new method allows for a level of detail unavailable with the infra-red system as it is capable of showing architectural nuances such as the arrangement of bricks in a stone façade.

"In future, this could probably even be used to survey entire districts," says Sattler.

Mapping large objects commonly causes calculation errors with regards to the 3D coordinates. "We solved the problem by programming the software to scrupulously delete all dubious values," he says.

Real-time feedback is also needed to ensure that the 3D model does not become a patchwork. A preview mode also lets the user know which building areas they have collected enough information for and which still require scanning.

The team believes the technology could be used to map archaeological excavations, allow cars to automatically detect the edge of roads and the size of parking spaces, and develop virtual-reality computer games featuring real buildings.

Lenovo and Google are currently collaborating on the first smartphone to use Project Tango which is due to be released this summer.

Latest Issue

E&T cover image 1607

"As the dust settles after the referendum result, we consider what happens next. We also look forward to an international summer of sport."

E&T jobs

  • Digital Forensic Specialist (Audio)

    Met Police
    • London
    • Circa £37,305 plus £3,406 location allowance

    You’ll contribute to a wide range of research and development activities.

    • Recruiter: Met Police

    Apply for this job

  • MetOp-SG Receiver Project Manager

    Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC)
    • STFC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, Harwell, Oxfordshire
    • £37,213 - £50,926 (depending on experience)

    Project Manager to oversee the development, production and test of spaceflight components and integrated receiver systems

    • Recruiter: Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC)

    Apply for this job

  • Systems Engineer

    Reaction Engines Ltd
    • Abingdon, Oxfordshire
    • Competitive + Benefits

    Perform general systems engineering tasks as necessary with specific focus on electronic systems and instrumentation.

    • Recruiter: Reaction Engines Ltd

    Apply for this job

  • Production Manager

    Reaction Engines Ltd
    • Abingdon, Oxfordshire
    • Competitive + Benefits

    An amazing opportunity to plan, direct and coordinate all manufacturing operations and activities in line with company strategy and business plan.

    • Recruiter: Reaction Engines Ltd

    Apply for this job

  • Navigation Sensors Principle Engineer

    • Stevenage
    • Competitive Salary & Benefits

    What?s the opportunity? An exciting opportunity has arisen in a rapidly evolving international team with increasing capabilities.  The Navigation Sensors Group is responsible for the...

    • Recruiter: MBDA

    Apply for this job

  • Technology Manager - External Communications

    BAE Systems
    • Frimley, England, Surrey
    • Negotiable

    Technology Manager - External Communications Would you like Lead the technical delivery of the External Communications System (ECS) capability sustainment & evolution projects within the common ECS (cECS) Baseline Design Management (BDM) programme? Th

    • Recruiter: BAE Systems

    Apply for this job

  • Graduate Process Engineer

    EFFECT Photonics
    • Brixham, Devon
    • £20,000 to £25,000

    Join our exciting journey to deliver new standards in the availability of data bandwidth.

    • Recruiter: EFFECT Photonics

    Apply for this job

  • Senior Principal Materials Engineer

    • Stevenage
    • Competitive salary & benefits

    What?s the opportunity? A fantastic opportunity has arisen for an experienced materials engineer/scientist specialising in non-metallic materials and processing. You will be given responsibility for...

    • Recruiter: MBDA

    Apply for this job

  • Postdoctoral Research Associate

    The University of Liverpool
    • Liverpool, Merseyside
    • £32,600 - £37,768 pa

    Applications are invited for a Postdoctoral Research Associate in a brand new area of communications.

    • Recruiter: The University of Liverpool

    Apply for this job

  • Test Engineering Opportunities

    • Hanslope Park, Milton Keynes
    • Salary offered will depend on skills and experience

    Push incredible innovations beyond their limits. Opportunities for Software, Hardware, EMC, Test and Inspection Engineers!

    • Recruiter: HMGCC

    Apply for this job

More jobs ▶


Choose the way you would like to access the latest news and developments in your field.

Subscribe to E&T