July 6, 2023

Inside Hexagon’s new Reality Cloud Studio

Takeaways of a live demonstration of Hexagon’s new reality capture SaaS application.
Image via Hexagon

Last month, Hexagon introduced Reality Cloud Studio, a software-as-a-service (SaaS) offering to visualize, collaborate around, and store reality capture data. The new application was officially introduced at HxGN LIVE Global, held last month in Las Vegas, Nevada, where they held demonstrations to show off how their new offering, which is powered by HxDR, works. At the event, Paul Burrows, Principal Software Solutions Manager - Reality Capture with Leica Geosystems, gave Geo Week News a demonstration of Reality Cloud Studio.

Before going into some of the takeaways from seeing the application in action, it’s worth briefly touching on some of the basics covered in the link at the top of this article. As Burrows explains, Reality Cloud Studio is largely broken into what he calls “three constituent parts”: Reality Drive (storage), Cloud Studio (visualization), and the Collaboration Space. The SaaS application is made up of three different tiers, and accepts data from any type of sensor providing for an industry-standard file format. 

Here are a few of the biggest takeaways I had from the demonstration in Las Vegas.

Automating Complexity

From a purely functional standpoint, the portion of Reality Cloud Studio which stood out the most was certainly the automation functionality. With Hexagon’s application, users are able to automatically register and mesh their point cloud data, each requiring just the click of a button. These are, of course, two of the most time-consuming and complex processes involved in reality capture work, so being able to automate that process is massive for surveyors and data collectors at any level of expertise. To do it, users simply pick which files they’d like included with a registration and/or mesh, hit one button, and let the program complete the work. Registrations and meshes cost “tokens,” with higher subscription tiers including more tokens.

It was difficult to nail down specifics on how much time one would actually save by utilizing the automation feature compared to traditional, manual workflows given the number of other variables involved – number of scans, file sizes, how it was captured, etc – but Burrows did say that relatively speaking it will be “much, much faster.” As this automated work is being done, too, users have the ability to complete other tasks within Reality Cloud Studio with the registration and meshing happening in the background.

Image via Hexagon

Lowering the Barrier to Entry

This picks up from the previous section, as one of the goals of this release was to appeal to a wider swatch of expertise levels in the surveying industry, which that automation works towards. Burrows talks about “track one and track two” customers, essentially talking about those who have been in the surveying business for a long time and have high levels of expertise, and those who are beginners or only using these tools for small and specific projects. Hexagon’s goal is to attract both of those. The automation accomplishes that, providing an automated workflow for processes in registration and meshing which saves beginners from having to learn a complex and arduous task, and allowing more experienced surveyors to skip that step and allow for more time for other projects or further refining existing ones.

Automation isn’t the only place where this barrier lowering is being seen. As mentioned at the top, the SaaS offering – which is the first such cloud-based offering powered by the company’s HxDR platform – comes with three different tiers: Essential, Advanced, and Professional. This plays again into the idea of serving different levels of needs, and those at the lowest level can fairly easily access the program with the lowest tier pricing out at $20 per month. The other two tiers are $139 and $430 per month, respectively, with differences including amount of storage space, collaboration capabilities, and more. 

Burrows also noted how they worked to make it as intuitive as possible – “The idea being that if I share a link with Juergen [Mayer, President of the Reality Capture Division at Leica Geosystems], and he’s never touched the platform, he should be able to navigate around the asset and look at the content really quickly and easily” – which came through in the demonstration. In fact, just the fact that it is a web-based SaaS offering lowers the barrier to entry, ensuring that work can be done with just a link on any internet-connected device rather than having to buy a powerful machine to complete projects. Desktops are still, of course, preferable, but working with a tablet or mobile device is possible where needed.

Providing Flexibility

The final aspect which stood out amid the live demonstration at HxGN LIVE Global was the amount of flexibility with the project, which again in a way ties back to the idea of being used by users of varying skill and expertise. That flexibility can work within a specific team or user, too. Burrows describes it as “scalable,” noting that teams and users can add more storage, or tokens, or functionality at a one-time cost to upgrade. Burrows continues, “It might be that the next month you don’t need it anymore, so it drops back down to the lower tier. So it’s completely flexible.” 

Beyond that, the application is also sensor agnostic, meaning users don’t have to go out and buy new, expensive equipment just to utilize the program. Of course, since it’s a Hexagon product there are added functionalities with their products – for example, data can be transferred directly from a BLK2GO to Reality Cloud Studio – but data can be taken in from scanners developed by other companies as well with the same baseline of quality. 

Ultimately, Burrows says, “There are customers that are going to want to use this as their central source of truth, to put all of their data up into the platform.” The demonstration showed the possibilities for this, for firms and solo practitioners of all size and experience. 

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