The Metroplex360 Blog

Exponential Growth for Matterport 3D Spaces fueled by ‘Lite’ Option

Today, Matterport announced their new ‘Cortex’ AI-powered image-processing software. This amazing new technology allows consumer level ‘one-shot’ cameras to be used to build to create Matterport 3D Spaces.

The new ‘entry-level’ solution creates the same 3D Dollhouse and Floorplan modes for clients who don’t require the accuracy, performance and image quality of Matterport’s professional products.

At Metroplex360, we have had the joy of beta testing Matterport’s new technology and finding interesting use-cases to augment our existing products.

Matterport Cortext Provides New Solutions for Capture

This is an example of a 3D Space of an as-built garage that was captured with the Matterport Pro-2 Camera. Due to direct sunlight interference with the infrared sensors, sections of the space are missing their 3D MESH. This is visible in dollhouse and floorplan modes and also creates a strange shimmering effect while navigating in walkthrough mode:

This is the same space with professional 134 megapixel imagery captured as a panorama and synthesized using Cortext technology. Note that all missing sections are complete:

Matterport Cortex Solves Capture Problems

With Cortex technology as a tool that augmenst our existing offerings, we will be able to tackle complex solutions that often fail 3D capture including:

  • Large Open Areas – The Infra-red sensors on the Matterport Pro-2 Camera have a limited range of 6 – 10 meters. This can create difficulties when capturing large open spaces. By using Cortex, we can align the same, high quality imagery, using image-processing to align when out of range for 3D Scanning
  • Small Spaces – When capturing a full 3D model, the Pro-2 Camera can have difficulty fitting into smaller spaces due to the span of the tripod and the device itself. With the ability to add scans from a smaller camera mounted to a monopod, we are able to add views in tight spaces that were impossible before.
  • Sunlight – As demonstrated above, the Pro-2 camera’s infra-red sensor cannot penetrate direct sunlight, thus creating holes in 3D models where sunlight is present. This can happen when there is a large window without blinds or if there is an open garage space. This also happens when capturing patio areas where sun is unevenly streaming into the space. With Cortex image-processing, these areas can be filled in and captured without alignment issues.
  • Image Distortion – The Matterport Pro-2 camera creates amazing 134 megapixel imagery, but struggles with objects that are too close to it’s image sensor. This is often seen when the camera is close to the rails in a staircase or a window with multiple sections. The result is that images are sometimes mangled. By using alternate cameras that have less problems with short range capture, we are able to serve customers with high expectations image fidelity. While imagery may fall short of the quality of the Pro-2 camera, it may make the difference between an accurate representation of a product and one that compromises the subject.

Matterport Cortex is the Tip of the Iceberg

With the combination of 3D Scanning and AI-powered image processing for generation of 3D models, we are excited about Matterport’s continued dedication for innovation and the increasing strength of their 3D Showcase platform. We expect to see increased interest in multiple markets creating more demand and opportunity to use Matterport 3D Showcase as a marketing and documentation tool for our existing and new clients.

Metroplex360 is an innovator in applying Matterport 3D Technology to solving the problems of our clients. We were the first service provider in Texas to obtain and begin using the high-resolution Matterport Pro-2 3D Camera and the first service provider to offer and provide 3D Capture with Leica’s BLK360 LIDAR Camera.

Founder, Chris Hickman, is also the author of mpembed (https://mpembed.com), a leading solution for enhancing and extending the capabilities of Matterport’s 3D Showcase platform by using the Matterport SDK to provide new experiences within Matterport Spaces.

We’re in the Top 1% of Local Guides in Keller, TX

We’re thrilled to know that we’re in the top 1% of Local Guides based out of the North Fort Worth / Keller, TX area!

Google Local Guides is a program that keeps track of contributions to Google Maps including signing up new businesses and producing walkable Google Street View Tours.

We’re quite thrilled at this recognition — and are hoping to close the 4% gap to reach Level 9 status before the year ends!

#localguides

Why Real Estate is Latching on to 3D Technology

This is a blog post originally seen at Propmodo.com.

Image above is a 3D Model of a Large Estate shot by Metroplex360 with the Leica BLK 360 and Matterport Pro-2 Cameras.

As the real estate industry continues to catch up to the break-neck pace of technology, leading real estate professionals are building a veritable arsenal of technologically advanced tools. In order to create better efficiencies and sell properties quicker to discerning renters and buyers, 3D technology has become one of the go-to tools in the real estate tech arms race, helping to disseminate immersive imagery and information to all parties in the home-buying and renting process.

Cutting-edge technologies, once considered groundbreaking, are increasingly embraced by real estate agents, developers, and home-buyers alike as they become easier to use and less costly than ever before. At Matterport, we have done our best to bring the power of 3D technology to the early adopters of the real estate industry. Here are some of the reason that we have seen that 3D technology has become so prevalent in the real estate industry.

3D technology makes home showing easier and less expensive

Because physically showing a space is a difficult, time-consuming, and expensive process, agents and property managers are constantly looking for ways to cost-effectively show properties. Ultimately, using a 3D camera to create a virtual model can dramatically increase the comprehensiveness of home or apartment documentation, providing a level of dimensionality and detail that is paramount when it comes to managing the sale or lease of a property.

Clients have myriad considerations when choosing a place to lease and immersive 3D digital experiences solve for this by letting them virtually walk through potential homes at their own pace, as many times as they’d like. It’s more proficient than 2D photography, which limits a user’s ability to view a property holistically. Static 2D imagery lacks depth and detail, and often doesn’t allow for an accurate understanding of spatial relationship within a property, which can hamper a prospective buyer or renter’s ability to make important decisions. With immersive media, brokers and property managers can capture a 3D digital copy of a space, allowing remote viewers to move about and view that space from different perspectives and zoom into details. Instead of a limited gallery of 2D images that were selected only for their ability to show the best parts of a property, brokers can provide a guided experience in a 3D tour which can help increase conversions.

Our immersive media technology, True3D™ give the experience of real-world spaces where users can see properties as a high-definition digital “dollhouse,” allowing them to virtually walk through the space. Today’s most innovative real estate firm incorporate are using these technologies into their marketing programs to differentiate themselves to building owners and potential clients. By using technology to make the sales process more efficient and effective, agents and their clients can spend less time managing site visit logistics and can instead engage around important aspects of the bidding and negotiation process.

Easy come, easy go-go-go

Across both residential and commercial real estate, there already exists an ecosystem for capturing and distributing 2D media. You’re probably already familiar with it: most if not all of the apartment images you’ve seen on online portal sites are two-dimensional. 3D immersive media has been able to leverage these platforms to provide both immersive walkthroughs and a set of 2D media that’s more cost-effective than it would be to just capture the 2D photo gallery of a space with a DSLR camera.

Think of it this way: Capturing in 3D is just like capturing in 2D, with one extra dimension that makes the experience immersive. In order to turn this into reality we designed out Pro2 camera and Capture app that actually automates the process of capturing a space so that non-technical people without any photography background can complete the process quickly and reliably. And, once the content is captured, it can be embedded directly into agent/owner websites or mobile applications through the 3D Showcase application, allowing anyone to incorporate Matterport content into their existing feature sets.

This ease-of-use has made 3D media companies much more popular. We recently t reached the 500 million mark of virtual tours taken by unique users across the globe, and now has more than one million tours in its international digital tour library – the largest of its kind. Within the residential real estate industry alone, we saw over 100,000 immersive tours created between 2017 and 2018. Beyond this, our 3D database scans help professionals from industries as diverse as architecture to insurance create efficiencies through simple design and implementation. Architecture, engineering, and construction pros, for instance, can feature completed projects in their portfolios to drive more business, while also functioning as a workflow tool to document and collect measurements from in-progress build-outs and construction projects. Doing so can cut field-to-finish time by 50 percent. We think that there are many uses for 3D images that have not even been thought of yet.

Brands get it: “Seeing is believing”

Tastemakers are also beginning to see the value in 3D technology. In a recent GE Shopper research study, 81 percent of shoppers today said they research online before making big purchases, which is one reason why big brands are turning to 3D technology to make the biggest impact at first click and deliver a new shopping experience for consumers. Just recently, Walmart announced that it is using our technology to deliver a walkthrough of an apartment/dorm room where all of the furnishings, gadgets, and accoutrements are for sale within the space.

Celebrity brands are riding the 3D technology wave too. Rachael Ray’s home furnishing company also used Matterport 3D virtual tours to give online visitors the experience of walking through an expertly designed and decorated residence. On behalf of top celebrities like Kendall Jenner, Eddie Murphy and Denise Richards, real estate agents have incorporated our home touring capabilities to list their homes for sale and allow the discerning public an insider view on the lifestyles of the rich and famous.

Whether you’re looking for an apartment, an office, or a mansion, however, there’s no doubt that 3D virtual tours will continue to be adopted by professionals beyond real estate, including construction, architecture, engineering, insurance, and business listings. Be ready for the day when 3D will be as common as digital photography is today – it may be here sooner than you think.

We’re Street View Pro-Grade Ready!

Metroplex360’s Chris Hickman with Google Street View Product Manager, Charles Armstrong and GoThru Founder and Owner, Alin Bugeag

Google Street View Pro Grade

Google announced at GSV Summit 2018 that they are now opening their Google Street View platform to Trusted Google Photographers using one of three certified capture devices, the Ricoh Theta V, the insta360 Pro and the NCTech iStar Pulsar.

The NCTech iStar Pulsar is a device developed specifically for capturing 7 11k panorama images per second.  The device connects to the VR.World platform that automatically generates and delivers content directly to Google.

The Pulsar delivers exceptional imagery compared to the entry-level Theta V and the insta360 Pro, which is primarily a 360 Video capture device that has 8k @ 5fps panorama capture as a secondary feature.

NCTech developed the Open Spherical Camera standard that Google uses for submission of content to Google Street View.  We were excited to pre-order the Pulsar based on NCTech’s experience in and relationship with Google.  There is no better capture solution as the technical specs and capture method exceeds that of the other devices — and you’d expect no less from the company that pretty much wrote the book on Street View Pro Grade capture!

NCTech iStar Pulsar — Soft Launch

NCTech iStar Pulsar Trekker Mount

Metroplex360 was one of the first US companies to receive an iStar Pulsar.   We began testing the device from a ‘Trekker’ configuration — and captured several miles of content within the Woodland Springs Home Owner’s Association in Fort Worth, TX.

The device had been tested in Scotland where it was developed, as well as in San Francisco during the winter months as a joint venture with NCTech and Google.  These environments provided the ideal circumstances for image capture at the shutter speeds that were available on launch — but subsequent user tests, like ours, proved that more work needed to be done!

We quickly discovered that in the blazing Texas summer sun, the Pulsar produced over exposed imagery!  We were itching to serve our clients, but we weren’t ready!

Bill Bailey (Nodal Ninja) and Andrew Baddeley (NCTech) embarked to capture Apache Junction outside of Phoenix, AZ in September 2018

Testing in Apache Junction

In September 2018, NCTech’s Tehnical Sales Director, Andrew Baddeley, journeyed to Arizona where he and Bill Bailey, of Nodal Ninja – NCTech’s US Distributor, tested new Pulsar device firmware along the Apache Junction.

Using an A-frame mount, they captured 75 miles of car-mounted footage.  The Pulsar passed with flying colors in the middle of the day while the drivers alternated their driving speeds.  The resulting footage is stunning and eclipses footage from the same stretch that was captured by Google in 2015.

You can take a tour of this area as seen by the NCTech iStar Pulsar, here:  iStar Pulsar / VR.World capture of Apache Junction / Tortilla Flats

NCTech iStar Pulsar A-Frame Car Mount on the Bailey-Mobile.

The firmware update is currently rolling out to NCTech Pulsar Google Pro-Grade providers.

We’re Pro Grade Street View Ready — is Google?

Google archives captured data from multiple time periods in the Google Maps ‘Time Machine’ that can be accessed from the top left about panel when available.

Pro Grade content that is captured and submitted to Google is immediately integrated into Google Maps.

The content can be accessed by dropping the pegman on the area where a blue line appears along the streets that data was captured on.  It can also be accessed if it intersects with existing content in Google Street View.

Google stores multiple sets of captured data that can be accessed by the ‘Time Machine’ feature.  For instance, for VR World’s demo, the imagery captured by Google on July 2015 is accessible from the top left corner:

Problem #1 – Blue Lines and Blue Dots

Pro Grade Content can be accessed by dropping the Pegman on a blue line in Google Maps. Here you can see that in addition to the blue line created by Google on the left side of the the street, there is a series of blue dots on the right side of the street.

There is a bug where individual circles are appearing for the User Generated content alongside the blue line that has been created by Google.

At one point, this problem was resolved, however, this was also causing content of the inside of businesses from the Google Local Guides program to disappear.

They rolled back the fix, and we’re back to having parallel circles.

While most people will not see these circles – they are helpful to see that Google is considering their capture on ONE SIDE OF THE STREET as authoratative and that the data on the other side of the street has a GPS offset and is thus not forming a blue line.

The two should merge together, however, Google appears to have not figured out how to consistently solve the problem of capture from opposing sides of the street being considered the same thing..

Problem #2 – Updating the Infograph on Search

Google Street View imagery appears on the infograph in search. This ‘See Outside’ is from 2015 despite VR.World submitting imagery at the same location in 2018.

Each business that Google has indexed has an infograph that contains useful information, user reviews, imagery and a map powered by Google.

The ‘See Outside’ image is pulled from Google Maps from the Pro-Grade imagery captured by the Google Street View Cars.

Charles Armstrong, the product manager for Google Street View, indicated in the press release for the insta360 Pro that updating a store front on maps is one of the services that Street View Pro-Grade providers will be able to offer:

“The majority of 360 imagery on Google Maps was captured by Google’s fleet of camera-equipped vehicles, but the world changes quickly, so there’s always more to cover,” said Charles Armstrong, Street View product manager. “With the Insta360 Pro, [and any Pro-Grade device] it’s easy for anyone to extend Street View coverage on their own, whether it’s to document an updated storefront or share an immersive adventure across the globe.” – Charles Armstrong, February 14, 2018

Problem #3 – Access to imagery on Mobile

As Google has multiple product teams, there are many different ways that we access its content.  Google Maps on Mobile works differently than it does on desktop.  Presently, Pro-Grade imagery is not accessible in the Google Maps App or on Google Maps Mobile (web based).

If a client receives a link to Pro-Grade content on a mobile device, they will be placed in content gathered by a Google Street View car that is nearest to the GPS coordinates in the link that was sent.

Pro-Grade is Available Today.

It is early days for Google Pro-Grade, but I am confident that the time to capture data and is today.

I am optimistic that data published to Google will soon inherit improvements to the Maps and Infograph products.  Google will solve today’s problems detailed above and when the product is stable, the mobile team and the infograph team will integrate the new content streams into their products.

Customers who have paid for captured data will enjoy their content being available immediately throughout Google’s platforms.

Fall is around the corner and it’s time to capture data before the leaves fall and winter approaches.

If you are interested in updating your store front on Google?  Are you a developer with roads and land that is not accessible on Google Maps products?  Are you a builder that has constructed new commercial real estate or residential multi-family communities that are invisible on Google Maps?

Call us today for service in North Texas — we’ll get you on Google Street View!

Marketing and Documentation for Home Builders in Frisco, TX

We love working with home builders to create extensive marketing photos and documentation. Unlike a Realtor shoot, we’re shooting high quality — magazine ready — HDR photos that document all features of a home for the primary purpose of the builder’s website. In addition, sales associates are able to use our imagery to show different interior finishes and features.

Matterport 3D tours add an additional level of immersion and are an incredible value as one tour will be used multiple times to sell the same floorplan for years! It’s a no brainer!

Google Street View – We’re Connecting to the Street!

As a Google Trusted Agency, we provide panoramic tours that help to enhance our clients’ Google listings in both search and on Google Maps.

One of the biggest challenges for us has been responding to client requests to update their street-level imagery.

Occasionally, we are lucky enough to publish a tour to Google Maps that connects a customer’s business to the street, (https://goo.gl/maps/tQLtJdkpGmR2), but our success is at the mercy of a rather random decision made by Google’s processing platform.  We know all the tricks and best practices — we hope for the best, but expect to take people to the street without a connection.

However, this is about to change.

I had the opportunity to attend Google Street View Summit 2018.  At the summit, Google announced that Trusted Photographers would not be provided access to providing street level imagery to power their maps.

So basically, we were asked to be the Street View Car.

And we couldn’t be more thrilled to have the power to update street level imagery.  We’ve chosen the NCTech iStar Pulsar to provide industry leading panoramic imagery captured from the rooftop of our own ‘Google Car’ that will directly publish to Google.

What’s next?  We’re going to tackle real world problems for businesses that want to make the best first impression they can.

Like getting rid of the the Starbucks signage below — and then fixing the ‘Coming Soon’ sign that appears when you get closer… because it’s a local hotspot now — not a construction zone!

 

And maybe we’ll turning this CiCi’s Pizza

Into Delucca’s Gaucho Pizza & Wine

 

First impressions are important.  Google Maps powers numerous navigation systems.  The imagery shows up on search and in the infographs.  Google even uses advanced machine learning to read signs and correctly position businesses on its maps and add information to enhance your search results.  Wrong image?  Wrong information!

If you see this little guy mounted on a Prius this August, you are welcome to wave 🙂