Geo Week News

February 8, 2011

HD point clouds, without leaving your browser


Online Interactive Software releases first effort toward ‘3D goodness for everyone’

HOUSTON—Fledgling software firm Online Interactive Software released last week CloudCaster Lite, a tool that allows one to view and manipulate point clouds in high definition without having to leave a standard web browser such as IE or Firefox.

“I believe 3D will be as ubiquitous as digital cameras are now,” said Online Interactive co-founder Jason Matsumoto. “My interest is in making 3D available to everybody.”

In the short term, however, as the use of point clouds is still a relatively niche and commercial/industrial endeavor, Matsumoto allows that the target audience for his company’s first offering is largely made up of engineering and surveying firms who are looking for a good way to allow their customers and employees to interact with their 3D data. 

“I suspect it will be smaller service providers and academic and research institutions” who are the first customers, Matsumoto said. “If you want to distribute point clouds over the web directly in the browser, there aren’t many tools at all. So anyone wanting to put real point cloud data on the web would be interested. Some of the most interested beta testers seemed to be university users, researchers, the guys who can’t buy the $15,000 licenses of this and that. They’re all pretty much blown away by the price point.”

You can play with a point cloud or two here to get a feel for the software.

That price point starts at $99, which allows you to post and manipulate up to 1 million points. A commercial license is $500, and that allows up to 5 million points (more than that and the Adobe flash player that helps drive the software goes haywire; OI’s software has worked with up to 17.5 million points in internal tests), unlimited models to work with, and you can white label the browser interface so that customers see your brand as they work with the point clouds.

Matsumoto also thinks the laser scanner vendors might be interested in his software as a plug in. “Imagine putting it into their software,” he said. “I think it would be fantastic if right when you’re done scanning there’s a drop down that says, ‘publish to the web.’ There’s an FTP client so you can publish straight to your web server if you want.”

Can you post your entire terabyte point cloud for others to view on this right now? Of course not. The bandwidth just isn’t there yet. But the 5 million limit will soon be 10 million points, and Matsumoto expects to keep apace of technology advances.

On the user end, when one goes to view a point cloud, it is cached locally on the hard drive, which takes about 30 seconds or so, depending on the size of the cloud. Then the user can spin the scan about, zoom in and out, take measurements, and otherwise examine the point cloud with very little lag time and very good visual performance. This editor used the interface in both Chrome and Firefox and had very good experiences with the test clouds provided by Online Interactive. 

This is just the beginning for OI, however. In the pipeline is a release of Pointcloud Toolbox, a collection of software tools the company has developed on demand for clients over the past two years or so and which they thought might be useful to the average consumer. 

“We’re just putting together a little applet where you can chain multiple processes together,” Matsumoto said. “Say you’ve got a bunch of files and you want to re-axis a bunch of them or chop them all down to different sizes.”

And perhaps the most interesting release on the horizon is the Amalgam Engine, which will allow for simple digital photographs and video to be collected and pieced into cohesive 3D pointcloud and model in relatively rapid fashion. 

“We think Amalgam will open up 3D for everybody,” Matsumoto said. “Instead of just shooting pictures or video of the Parthenon on vacation, you’ll be able to take home a 3D model.” Or, for industrial and commercial customers, “our goal would be to put a video camera in the hands of the guy doing the walk down and just hit the play button as he walks around. Then he comes back to the office, inputs his video, clicks go, and they’ve got a pretty good 3D model. It’s not accurate to the level of the scanner, but it’s pretty close, and it’s full color.”

Want more stories like this? Subscribe today!

Read Next

Related Articles


Join the Discussion