One of the more interesting companies I’ve run into recently is Matterport. It is a product and service that allows you to fully scan a place and then publish it in the cloud so that others can navigate it like a game and as if they were there. It has obvious applications for the real estate and insurance markets, to prove disaster or theft losses. I was introduced to this firm through AMD Ventures, a department in AMD that funds firms with promising technology that use AMD’s products.
To see what the result looks like, you can check out my home and use the on-screen cursor keys to navigate almost every room, starting with the front entry. Navigation takes a bit of getting used to, but it is an impressive way to virtualize and then share a physical space. Once you are done checking out my house and office (you’ll likely find my desk particularly interesting as it is the same desk many government drone pilots use), let’s look at how technology like Matterport’s could be used to protect and better manage physical offices.
While sales and leasing of homes and businesses is an obvious target for this technology because it would open sites to more potential buyers, I think the utility goes beyond that usage. I was a space planner for a time and this tool would be invaluable to a space planner. If you aren’t aware of what a space planner does, they map out an office space. They are the ones that likely put you in that too small cubicle with the horrid light and the incredibly bad acoustics. (The funny thing about cubicles is that the guy that came up with the idea, for short-term emergency office space, was appalled when he saw how his idea was corrupted into permanent people stalls.)
With this tool, the space planner can get a better idea of how the space currently works, look at light patterns, and check to make sure plans represent what is actually there. Often, what you now get is something that was created when the building was built, but businesses can make massive changes over time. All those changes might not get caught until the cubicles and furniture show up, throwing what otherwise would be a one-day move into a multi-week nightmare.
This tool allows planners to showcase the advantages of the changes, because they can provide a digital walk-through of the before and after 3D images.
This wouldn’t just be handy for office space either. If you needed to take a look at a data center, and you took the scans regularly, you could see how well the space was utilized and changed, and then present those changes to management to showcase progress. You’d also be better able to see potential flow problems and thermal issues. Granted, to confirm this last item, you’d likely need to supplement these 3D scans with thermal pictures from an FLIR infrared camera (another interesting tool).
We often overlook the physical side of security, but with a 3D image, a remote security expert could better find areas that aren’t adequately protected. I used to do both IT and physical security audits while at IBM and actually looking at the inside of a building helped significantly when trying to locate security exposures.
While you’d likely still need to have someone confirm your concerns, the image would allow an expert to better see where they were and to get comfortable with any changes their recommendations drove without having to fly to the site. This last is incredibly important because several times my recommendations were misunderstood and I didn’t catch the mistake until years later when I next physically visited the site.
Matterport 3D Technology
The solution consists of a special camera that can take pictures with a deep field of view, coupled with a motorized tripod, which is moved and placed around the room to capture all angles and surfaces. The resulting file is sent to the Matterport service, which stitches it together to create a virtual 3D structure identical to the space scanned. This image can then be shared on the service so that anyone with the right permissions can view it. In my case, I had permissions set to off, but you could limit access to just the people you wanted to see the image.
As long as you keep the scans up to date, people can explore your offices and data center virtually, much like they were actually there, saving the travel time and travel costs related to the effort.
Wrapping Up: Just the Beginning
I can see this solution as a likely candidate for a quad-rotor personal drone, which could perform the duties of camera base, and scan both the inside and outside of the building automatically. I’m actually kind of surprised Google hasn’t already started trying to do this, given its wish for a mapping solution inside buildings.
Be that as it may, if you need a solution that will virtualize your office or home, check into Matterport. It’s pretty cool.
Rob Enderle is President and Principal Analyst of the Enderle Group, a forward-looking emerging technology advisory firm. With over 30 years’ experience in emerging technologies, he has provided regional and global companies with guidance in how to better target customer needs; create new business opportunities; anticipate technology changes; select vendors and products; and present their products in the best possible light. Rob covers the technology industry broadly. Before founding the Enderle Group, Rob was the Senior Research Fellow for Forrester Research and the Giga Information Group, and held senior positions at IBM and ROLM. Follow Rob on Twitter @enderle, on Facebook and on Google+