This report reviews how the industry brings reality to the screen and how real world operations and processes can be replicated (simulation) to help field operators perform their tasks with greater accuracy and efficiency.
In this report we will review:
Some technologies replicate reality exactly as the human eye sees it, although by and large, a visualization technology is any technique used to create a visual representation and to communicate a message.
In this article we will analyze:
A photograph is a durable reproduction of reality that the human eye sees at a specific moment in time. The viewer cannot interact with this representation of reality. Photographs are a means to communicate a moment in time or place to a third party.
Nowadays technology has lowered the barrier to taking good photographs. Anybody can take a picture with their phone, point and shoot camera or SLR, and share it.
A Spherical Panorama (SP) is a full-view photograph made from a fixed location. The viewer/user can look up, down, left, right and behind. SPs are commonly used to share a location.
An SP is a single photograph created by stitching several photographs together that have been taken from a fixed location. The sum of all photographs covers the full-view of the location (Image 2), and a player is used to let the viewer/user look around and up & down.
Because an SP is the result of stitching several photographs (it can range anywhere from two to thousands, depending on the desired resolution), its final size may impact its potential uses.
The most common ways to create SPs are:
Taking photographs with a normal camera mounted in a “pano head” (to avoid the parallax effect ), and stitching them with special software.
Using spherical 3D cameras. These cameras are usually ball-shaped with several lenses, processing power and wifi capabilities. Some of these cameras can create SPs directly without the need of further processing.
A video is a series of photographs taken sequentially in such a way that when they are interpreted by a player (video player), it replicates reality in a timeframe. Videos are commonly used to tell a story and the viewer/user is typically a passive spectator.
If each photograph in the sequence is a spherical panorama, the video is called 360º video. In this case the viewer/user can create part of the experience because she or he decides where to look from their viewpoint while watching the video (remember the degrees of freedom in an SP).
Nowadays anybody can shoot a video and share it, i.e. with a smartphone, but there are two major limitations:
Major setbacks of 360º videos are:
Computer Generated Models, also called CAD Models, are navigable artificial 3D models designed with a computer system. The viewer/user can walk in any direction and look up, down, left, right or behind, and can also interact with some elements in the 3D model. CAD models are used for design and manufacturing purposes but also for simulation and video games.
Although the underlying constituents of the 3D model are vertices connected by straight lines or curves (wireframe), a 3D image (also called 3D scene) can be created via 3D rendering:
As an example, two rendered images of different quality and resource requirements are shown below.
The level of realism affects the credibility and value of the rendering for simulation purposes, and the rendering quality impacts other factors. Increasing the quality of the 3D scene rendering implies:
One of the biggest setbacks with 3D scenes (already rendered) is the time and amount of resources needed to update them. The process of updating means, among other considerations, altering the wireframe with new elements or changes, running all the needed simulations, creating the surfaces and defining their material and the 3D rendering itself. Therefore updating CAD-based scenarios is a very resource intensive process.
Enhanced Reality (ER) creates a photorealistic 3D scene from a collection of photographs. The viewer/user can move around continuously with no interruption and look left, right, and behind and can interact with elements in the 3D scene. ER is used to replicate and share a big place, building or asset, as well as for the simulation of how a worker interacts with industrial equipment in a facility or large vehicle.
ER is a technology that transforms a simple still photograph into a 3D self-contained navigable space where a user can move freely. With a series of photographs ER creates a continuous 3D scene as every single 3D space of each photograph is linked to the others via 3D navigable connections.
ER technology uses a set of photographs taken along a desired path as its raw material to build interactive scenarios. The equipment needed for photoshooting is a normal camera, and the size of the files produced is much lower when compared to a video covering the same area. For illustration purposes, given a 70 meter walk:
So, with no compression, a video will roughly be 200 times larger in size than the equivalent ER version as the proprietary files added by ER are also negligible in size.
The nature of the 3D scene (made up of discrete photographs connected by virtual links) makes updating straightforward because it is just a matter of changing old photographs for new ones. No special equipment or high production time is needed.
In this section we analyze how suitable different visualization technologies are for simulation purposes. In particular we are interested in simulations of real world operations in industrial facilities, with the goal of helping field operators train and execute operations and maintenance procedures flawlessly and efficiently.
This specific simulation requires that the visualization technology (scene capabilities) excel in:
This table, compares the visualization technologies as per these parameters: