NCTech co-founder Neil Tocher believes that the iSTAR, a hand-held digital camera that uses four precalibrated sensors to create a 50 megapixel full spherical image, will become a common tool for documenting buildings.
Unlike other methods of 360° image capture, which stitch photographs together from multiple cameras, the iSTAR is a single camera, with multiple lenses, that analyses a whole scene as one picture.
“The camera was originally developed for military use,” says NCTech co-founder Tocher. “However, due to its accuracy and ruggedness, engineers have adopted the technology.
“As the camera is hand-held, it can be taken inside buildings, so it lends itself well to quickly surveying locations accurately”, he adds.
The camera, which is accurate to 1cm within a 10m radius, is not designed as a replacement for a laser scanner, although this may be possible in the future. At present it provides quick (usually around 1-2 minutes) and accurate images that can be used to colourise 3D models or as the basis for initial designs, surveys and modelling.
The camera is also calibrated to collect measurement data and from next month, when NCTech releases updated software, it will be possible to take measurements directly from the files that the camera produces.
Built-in GPS means that the camera’s image can be precisely located on a map, and the camera can even be installed on a vehicle to create 360° mobile street mapping. This could be used to map entire rail or road systems.
However, due to its size and mobility it is inside buildings that the camera has the most interesting potential uses. Tocher believes that the 360° camera will become an essential onsite tool: “With the future of measurement capability, overlay, and our site surveyor applications for onsite capture, placement into floorplans and measure, iSTAR will become an invaluable tool, especially working with CAD to deliver the information ready for IFC export to Revit, Tekla and others.”
The iSTAR is currently available for around £4,000.