BLK2GO your own way!

There is a lot of buzz about the new Leica Geosystems (part of Hexagon Group) BLK2GO scanner that is just reaching market now, and they have recently posted some sample data on the website for users to download and review.  So we thought we would give it a look and see what this new solution in the hand-held SLAM space offered. We simply uploaded the original e57 file to 3DUserNet directly and can now invite all of you to interact with the data as well, so we can get your thoughts on it too! 

If you want to get stuck in straight away just click on the image above to start interacting and you can navigate your way around the scene in 3D yourself.  We’ve set up some views that you can access using the arrows in the bottom left of the screen, and you can also have a play with all the measurement tools and other settings available in 3DUserNet by using the tool menu in the top left of the screen.  Go ahead knock yourself out, and whilst you are navigating, see if you can spot the little ‘Easter Egg’ we have hidden in the scene too.

3DUserNet Tools Menu

Now to our thoughts on the BLK2GO…

Hardware

It is undeniable that the look of the BLK2GO system is good.  It wouldn’t be out of place in some futuristic sci-fi drama, although perhaps it would analyse your body for injuries, or probe your innermost mind, neither of which are currently listed on the spec sheet, disappointingly!

It has to be said that this is a vast improvement on other offerings in this space so far, and the fashion conscious surveyor or construction worker would be happy to be seen with this bit of kit in hand.  The fact that the system has both measurement and image capture capabilities is also a real bonus, as colour and intensity information has been a challenge in this space too, and given the patterning of the data capture, these aspects will really help visually interpret the scene.

Accuracy / Resolution

We’re not going to go into depth on this one, as there are, as usual, many variables that can affect the accuracy of the data, but this is where having a look for yourself at the dataset is worth while.  Given our experience with other solutions in this space it is definitely comparable and this particular sample dataset has a good point density that, with the right visualisation solution, can give quite an immersive experience, rather than having to view the data in plan to make sense of it, which has been the case with others.  With the right walking speed, probably pretty slow, and the additional mobile phone friendly viewing interface, it certainly looks like you will be able to capture fairly high quality data, albeit not the holy grail of terrestrial tripod based resolutions.  We’re sure that will happen before too long though!

Colourisation

This is probably one of the big selling points for this solution.  Having colour and intensity information is a real bonus for such fast capture of a scene, and it helps with the use cases for the data.  

Check these out by changing the Pointcloud Colour setting in the 3DUserNet view. You can toggle between RGB colour, Intensity, and Height colourisation.

Change Pointcloud Colours and Levels in 3DUserNet

You can see that the RGB colours are a little washed out in the example Leica have made available (you can certainly improve these using the Gamma, Brightness and Contrast tools in our viewer though). It might be that the scene itself wasn’t very varied, but the placement of colour seems fairly reliable and does give a good overall impression of the scene.  Respect has to be given to Leica for implementing this all within a very tidy package.

Use Cases

The hand-held space in the laser scanning community has been an interesting one over the past 5 or so years.  The main benefit has always been speed of capture but other than giving an overall impression of a scene and producing sometimes crude plan drawings there hasn’t been any inspiring use cases.

This could be set to change now Leica and other vendors are producing some really interesting solutions.  I think people will now want to use hand-held systems rather than reluctantly needing to.  There looks to be more opportunity for growth in the range of products that can be extracted from the fast 15 minute captures.  A user could not only produce a solid floor plan, but could now convincingly present the 3D data in an immersive way, either online or offline, to a client and they would actually understand what they are looking at.

As resolution and reliability improves, so the scope of use cases increases.  You could model from this data (to a certain level), you can use it for situational awareness across a broad spectrum of industries, you could use it for progress comparisons on daily site updates with actual analysis and numerous more things besides.  

So now might be the time to look at hand-held solutions with a bit more fervour and embrace the new possibilities that it can afford.  Fast mobile data capture with a BLK2GO and fast online pointcloud delivery with 3DUserNet could be a good way forwards!

3 Comments

  1. A nice point cloud viewer.

    Downloaded the dataset from your viewer & imported E57 into Recap.

    Looking a the floor levels in the large office room this Leica dataset from BLK2GO appears to be tilted/unlevelled. Cannot believe this large room has a 180 mm slope in floor level!………. Is this not the issue with all hand-held/mobile scanning compared to static scanning solutions for accurate surveying, you really don’t know it is correct/accurate or repeatable without having to add survey control across the dataset extents to verify it? Just don’t believe the IMU will ever be good enough to use the data for accurate surveying, especially accurate spot level (Z values/Ht. information) extraction from hand-held solutions on it’s own. I have also seen the same issue with mobile car scanning whereby ht. information is inaccurate and the data drifts along the surveyed ‘Track/Path’ when checked against survey control. On it’s own mobile/hand-held scanning looks very persuasive but in reality the absolute & relative accuracy of the dataset collected this way is unknown unless you verify against accurate survey control across the whole dataset extents. I have seen people issue hand-held collected datasets to clients and claim these datasets are survey grade, when they have not applied any survey control to verify this notion. This is where hand-held collected datasets are very dangerous when not used fit for purpose/survey grade specs. People just see pound/dollar signs due to the quick data collection process!

    1. Hi Sam,

      The download in the note is direct from the BLK2GO Site and is unaltered. We uploaded the .e57 directly to 3DUserNet without any modification, so your observations are really interesting. We agree that having a good control network in place is always best practise to ensure accuracy across a dataset. Fortunately, most of the vendors that are producing hand-held systems have a strong suite of tools to help with that as well, so they should have you covered.

      The savings in capture time for scanning could be put to good use on ensuring a strong control network is in place.

      1. I think the point I am making is that even with a survey control network you will still have areas you have surveyed where there is no survey control. How would you know if the data collected in these locations is correct? The answer is you wouldn’t so as a surveyor that is what I am paid to know! I gave been measuring large & complex occupied buildings with static scanners for 10 years so how could you possibly install survey control in every room area (continual access to do this would be an issue anyway) across a floor without spending so much time carrying this process out that it would be just as quick and more importantly accurate to use a static scanner. Another issue I can see with using mobile/handheld scanners in my field of measuring buildings is that it requires a closed loop survey methodology for the slam to work with any degree of accuracy. Is this really practical in an occupied building where access is never provided in a free reign scenario to be able to close out the loops for the slam technology to work? Example areas shown by the manufacturers surveyed with mobile mapping are always areas that are very open and freely accessible I.e warehouse and never a hotel building for example where closing out loops would be difficult. I would say hand held scanning is useful for quick ‘Dirty Scanning’ and at the moment not fit for purpose for accurate surveying where we need to prove the accuracy of our data collected. The noise in mobile mapping data even in the new BLK2GO is also too high for using for survey grade purposes (+/- 20mm). Don’t know of any measured survey specification that allows +/- 20mm spot level tolerances. If course you cannot correct this noisy data with survey control. Can’t adjust noisy data into clean data with survey control. Just my observations on hand-held scanners but again everything goes back to ‘It’s so quick to use one though’. Will be interesting to see what applications people use them for but I fear they will be used on tasks that they are not ‘fit for purpose’ due to data collection times.

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