The same technology used to map topography, study forest health and catch speeders has now moved inside. LIDAR is a kind of laser-based radar that measures distance by bouncing a beam off a surface and analyzing the light that reflects back.
The same kind of 3D scanning is now creating viewer-controlled walkthroughs for buildings and other structures. The result works much like Google Street View. In a home tour, the user can navigate every room of the space, go up and down stairs and look at ceilings, floors and everything in between.
It starts with special laser scanner that records a million measurements with each shot. The scanning camera is moved from point to point within the space, and then software stitches all the scans together.
Two Vancouver-based sister companies, The Real Estate Channel and LNG Studios, are the first in Canada to offer this new technology to the real estate industry. About a year ago they joined forces with the Silicon Valley startup that was developing the stitching software and offered their expertise on creating architectural animation.
The new technology can produce an interactive tour in 24 to 48 hours, or even less, depending on the size of the space. A thousand square feet requires 30 minutes of shooting time plus processing time of a few hours to produce a digital tour that can be embedded on a website.
The efficiency of the process brings the price down. Real Estate Channel general manager Matt White says a tour of an 800-square-foot space would cost $180.
While Realtors and owners of office and retail space are the initial customer base, Matt Grant, executive producer at both companies, sees many more applications. “Right now we’re scanning a decommissioned navy ship that will be sunk and made into an artificial reef. The people who are coordinating this work want it for their safety training. They want people to be able to do virtual dives so they know where the emergency exits are no matter where they are in the boat,” he says. Insurance companies and oil companies have also shown interest in the safety training possibilities of interactive 3D tours. Online retailers could also use them to make the shopping experience more like the real thing.
“The advantage to our 3D scanning technology, and what’s kind of cool about it, is the final result is like a first-person video game experience. It’s very immersive. You can explore the place on your own terms,” says Grant.
To find out more about Real Estate Channel’s 3D Scan services, and more, visit www.realestatechannel.ca , or call toll free 1877-843-3218
Elizabeth Wilson, REW.ca