Singapore Government adopting indoor 3D mapping: How 3D mapping works

SINGAPORE - The Republic is pushing ahead to map more indoor spaces in three dimensions for a variety of reasons ranging from managing crowds during emergencies to preserving buildings digitally - and lasers are key in these efforts.

The mapping process begins with a device that scans its surroundings with a moving laser, making millions of measurements of distances to objects based on the time light takes to travel there and reflect back.

The result is a "point cloud", a data set containing the 3D positions of millions of points representing the floor, ceiling, walls and other structures.

This is converted to a 3D map of the place using sophisticated computer programs. In fact, researchers are trying to develop programs smart enough to automatically identify everyday objects such as chairs and lamps.

Assistant Professor Yeung Sai-Kit, who leads the Vision, Graphics and Computational Design Group at the Singapore University of Technology and Design, said the main challenge is getting enough 3D data to "train" computers to recognise things. "Getting a 3D model is much more time-consuming than just capturing an image."

Despite the challenges, Prof Yeung is pushing ahead with 3D indoor applications through Sky Optimum, a local start-up he founded last year.

The company will soon release a web-based interior design tool based on 3D indoor models, called MagixHome. It is a platform for furniture companies, interior designers and property agents and developers to market their products, as well as for the members of the public to design their own homes.

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