Need to view a point cloud cluster and don’t have the right software? Let me show you an online application with advanced features that you can use from a common browser
Even if you need to view very complex and detailed point cloud clusters, it’s not always necessary to install expensive software tools. In fact, with today’s web viewing technologies, you can view and manage point cloud cluster files using simple but at the same time powerful point cloud viewer such as usBIM.pointcloud, one of the free usBIM integrated applications.
Let’s have a look at how we can view point cloud files completely online without installing any software and freely manage point clouds of any size, in .PTS, .XYZ, .PLY, .E57, .LAS, .LAZ, .XYZCIRN and .ASC formats.
In this insight, you’ll also find a detailed overview of the usBIM.pointcloud features for managing the various types of point cloud files and how to share the 3D model together with views, annotations and information, while taking advantage of the usBIM collaborative platform.
What is a point cloud used for?
A point cloud is a set of data points (thousands or even millions, depending on the degree of precision) with known coordinates in space that represents the digital model of a real object.
Point clouds are generated by means of 3D laser scanner surveys or with other technologies, and contain all relevant information from the survey useful for representing an existing object in three-dimension (buildings, monuments, public squares, etc.), including surface colour information. The most common file types are .LAS, .LAZ, .E57, .PLY, .PTS, .XYZ.
The laser scanner survey technique and point cloud generation represents one of the best forms of information and geometrical data acquisition currently available today.
In addition to this, data acquisition and processing times are now incredibly reduced leading to exceptional results both in terms of realistic output and efficient multi-purpose functionalities.
Let’s see what they are used for.
Point cloud clusters are used for many different purposes, some of the most common are:
- to browse within the scanned object
- to perform accurate model analysis
- to take measurements on the model, even reaching points that are not easily accessible in reality
- to obtain information regarding the true condition of an object (infrastructure, buildings, etc.)
- to compare various models
- to use point clouds as a guideline for preparing land surveys
- for analyzing colour or reflectivity data
- to generate a 3D mesh (surfaces composed of triangles with segments that connect to the point cloud nodes)
- to process an “intelligent” BIM model, containing all the information concerning the characteristics of laser scanned objects
- model processing and 3D printing.
Online point cloud viewer
As mentioned above, we can view point clouds even without having specific software.
The are many advantages of using an online pointcloud viewer:
- no need to install any software
- you can forget about paying for software licences and extra fees for updates
- you can save space on your hard disk
- you can extend your viewing capabilities to any device connected to the internet.
usBIM.pointcloud is a free online viewer with the advantage of being integrated to a BIM collaboration platform (usBIM) that allows you to exhange models, files and information with clients and collaborators thanks to a simple link (shared through usBIM.chat).
This greatly simplifies the process of exchanging information. In fact, exchanging 3D survey files is not always a simple and straightforward operation: 3D files contain a huge amount of information and are usually quite heavy.
For this reason, sharing data directly in the cloud, opening 3D files from a browser without the need to download any application on your PC can be a great advantage.
At this point, let’s see how to use point cloud viewer online and take advantage of its functionalities.
What to read next:
- How to open 3D files online;
- How to view a Revit file online;
- How to open SKP file online;
- How to open and view a GeoJSON file.
Point cloud management functions
I suggest you to access the free usBIM service and use one of the sample files available in the “Shared with me” folder to experience firsthand the functionalities that I am going to show you.
To start off, simply access the usBIM page and insert your ACCA account credentials.
If you don’t have an ACCA account yet:
- go to the MyACCA page
- register an account by filling in your data
- enter your email address and password.
Now you are ready to access usBIM.pointcloud, to view all its features and also access the other free applications within the usBIM integrated system.
In summary, with usBIM.pointcloud you can:
- browse point clouds of any size and format (.LAS, .LAZ, .E57, .PLY, .PTS, .XYZ, etc.) directly online
- show your project results to clients free of charge and from any device connected to the Internet
- navigate even complex textured mesh models from your browser
- carry out measurements on the 3D model even if it has been created with a different software
- instantly create model sections at any desired point
- merge several 3D models, even with different file formats, thanks to the federation of BIM models (proprietary and non-proprietary) functions
- integrate your project with additional information and external links
- share point clouds and textured meshes also via usBIM chat without exchanging and duplicating files, thanks to a simple chat message.
- manage your 3D survey on a BIM platform.
Let’s look in detail at all the functions of usBIM.pointcloud.
Viewing an online point cloud
Viewing and navigating a model, exploring all the details is surely the most important functions expected from an online viewer.
In usBIM.pointcloud with the
Camera command you can view the point cloud following two distinct modes:
By selecting Orbit you can rotate the 3D model in all directions, around a chosen point. If navigating from your PC, simply right-click on a point (which will be the point around which the rotation will occur) and move the mouse in the direction you prefer.
You can also zoom your view by moving the mouse wheel back and forth, and move the model in all directions by pressing the middle button and simultaneously moving the mouse in the direction you choose.
In First Person mode, on the other hand, you can navigate the 3D model as if you were actually walking through the model it and even going forward, backward and in any desired direction, just as you would in a video game.
You can walk through the model and analyze every detail in an extremely realistic way using either the mouse or the keyboard arrows.
With the mouse, just press the right button and simultaneously move forward and backward. With the arrows you can walk forward, backward, left and right and speed up your movements by holding down the SHIFT key.
You can also look around by right-clicking and moving the mouse horizontally or vertically, and again move horizontally and vertically by pressing the middle mouse button (the scroll wheel).
To properly navigate the model even from a smartphone, you can follow the detailed directions that appear by pressing the “?” button at the bottom right of the usBIM.pointcloud screen.
Set up camera projection
Camera Projection feature allows you to view the 3D model in
Orthographic view is a parallel projection (because it preserves the parallelism of the lines of the surveyed object) in which distances and 90° angles (of lines parallel to the projection plane) are directly measurable and do not undergo perspective deformation. It is a more abstract view but helps with more immediacy to evaluate shapes and geometries of the object being analyzed.
Perspective view, on the other hand, is a realistic view in which distant objects appear smaller than objects in the foreground. Perspective represents how models are perceived by the observer depending on their elevations and the observer’s position relative to the models.
Having set the projection type as needed, you can use the navigation modes already described to move through the point cloud.
Point cloud section
Sections function allows you to make endless sections of the point cloud according to X, Y and Z planes but also according to oblique planes by rotating, with the appropriate grip, the previously chosen section plane. Having sectioned the model you can always take advantage of the Orbit and First Person commands for navigating the point cloud.
This allows you to analyze all the details and have a more complete knowledge of the model surveyed from all possible angles.
Adding notes to the model
Managing the point cloud with a BIM management platform also allows you to transfer a number of benefits of the BIM methodology to the surveyed model.
With usBIM.pointcloud you can in fact associate notes (links and videos) to the model in order to add useful information and data during the project design, maintenance and management.
For example, it might be useful to associate photos taken during the surveying stage, documents found during research (cadastral plans, blueprints, drawings, etc.), working files, DWGs, IFCs, etc.
There are several ways to associate a new link to the document.
You can drag and drop documents already uploaded to the platform, or you can manually insert links to documents on the platform or links related to specific web pages by clicking on the “+” button and choosing the “Add from platform” or “Add from web link” option.
The notes added can be accessed and implemented over time and will also be readable when sharing the point cloud model with your collaborators.
Measurements on a point cloud online
Measurements command you can make directly on the model:
- linear measurements;
- angular measurements;
- surface measurements.
It is a very useful tool as it allows you to collect metric information even about objects, areas and angles that cannot be measured directly on the real model. For example, you can very accurately measure elements that cannot be reached or visited safely. In addition, you can use it as a verification tool for measurements taken on site.
Having made measurements on the point cloud you can also read the result, expressed in meters, from the analytical measurements box that appears to the right-hand side of the usBIM.pointcloud work space.
With usBIM you have the possibility to federate hundreds of models and show them simultaneously in a single view. This feature is extremely useful as it allows you to combine together models even generated with different file extensions and produce a single model by combining different pieces.
For example, you can combine point clouds generated during different site surveying, but also models generated by your BIM authoring with those created by your colleagues. In this way you can enrich the point cloud with the plant model (existing or project), with the structural model, etc.
To federate your models you can proceed as follows:
- in “My Documents” create a new folder by clicking on the appropriate icon at the bottom right;
- click on
New documentand choose
Federation of BIM models;
- drag and drop the models to be federated into the appropriate box or choose them from your folder on the usBIM cloud;
- click ok to confirm;
Update Federationto change the location of each model.
You can also add links, annotations, documents, etc. to the federated model and share it with your collaborators.
Sharing the point cloud
With usBIM you seamlessly share a model in the point cloud together with the data, documents and BIM models that you have on your cloud space.
Data and documents can be exchanged without file switching but only by sharing a simple link that provides direct access to the documents stored in the usBIM cloud. You can share the link with your collaborators directly in the usBIM chat service.
Let’s take an example.
Suppose you need to share a work file to your colleague, a 3D point cloud of several gigs of the building being renovated. At this point we simply need to drag the file already uploaded to usBIM into chat and type in any message to communicate with your colleague.
Your team mate immediately receives the message in the chat and automatically has all the functions of usBIM available to view the point clouds. He/she simply has to click on the message to view the model even without having specific software downloaded and from any device available to him, including tablets or smartphones.