SRI spinout, REscan, changes the face of commercial real estate
The digital age has opened many doors, allowing us to see, hear, experience and explore places and settings all over the world from a distance. Google Earth; namely, takes you to the front door of a building, but that particular door doesn’t open. Robert Herman and Botond Bognar, co-founders of REscan, an SRI Ventures spinout, saw potential in these digital applications to explore interior spaces in the same way. The pair, whose backgrounds were in real estate investments, wanted to find a way to make managing interior spaces searchable, analyzable and quantifiable by delivering not only the dimensional integrity of a space, but a true understanding of the content of the space as well.
Commercial real estate typically involves lots of travel. Pictures and floor plans only go so far when deciding to rent or purchase a large facility. Walking around a location and seeing it in 3D is critical to getting a sense of what a space is truly like. This isn’t always easy — traveling hundreds or thousands of miles is time-consuming and can be expensive. And COVID-19 has only made things even more challenging, with travel restrictions and concerns for safety.
REscan, is devoted to representing commercial real estate interiors to prospective clients and tenants from a distance. REscan has developed a system to scan, digitize, model and represent building interiors in 3D. Together with SRI International, REscan developed a hardware capture device that is mounted on a helmet worn by a user who walks through and scans the space. Herman describes it as a self-driving mapping car turned hard hat, complete with cameras, LIDAR, and other sensors that scan spaces from human point of view.
Scaling the four mountains with the help of SRI International
Lots of data are required to model and represent a large interior space; REscan captures many terabytes of data for each project. Herman describes what he calls the four “mountains” that his company needed to conquer to make this possible: data capture through a hardware device, 3D reconstruction through semantic understanding, data management, and user interface and interaction.
SRI provided valuable assistance and expertise particularly for the first two challenges, hardware capture and 3D reconstruction. Supun Samarasekra and Rakesh “Teddy” Kumar from SRI’s Center for Vision Technologies played crucial roles in developing the visual scanning technology and Senior Research Development Scientist, Avi Ziskind, worked on artificial intelligence, deep learning and 3D modeling of captured visual and spatial data.
REscan’s scanning hardware has many significant benefits — it is portable (worn on the head), non-disruptive (simply a person walking through a space) and does not require that the facility be shut down to be scanned. Privacy is ensured by automatic software’s removal of images of any bystanders or private data picked up by the device. Once the space is scanned (up to 250,000 sq. feet and 1 terabyte of data per hour), it is uploaded to the cloud, where the analysis, semantic understanding and modeling takes place. The final product — the rendered 3D experience — can be viewed on a computer or mobile device through the fluid, intuitive user interface of the REscan viewer.
With the support of SRI’s experience and expertise, REscan is poised to offer its product to commercial real estate customers as well as other organizations, such as the Air Force. Visitors to REscan’s website can experience the innovation themselves on their own smartphones; a full scan of the San Mateo County History Museum (formerly Redwood City, California’s city hall), is available as a sample of their work. Recently, REscan has also scanned a mall in San Francisco and an entire 5 million square foot terminal of an international airport. The potential for REscan’s use extends beyond commercial real estate acquisition, it can give companies the ability to facilitate periodic site inspections of a large retail portfolio.
While still a relatively new venture, REscan is already receiving attention and industry awards. REscan recently won a MUSE Design Award for its Scanner Helmet and has been recognized by the 2021 Red Dot International Design Awards with the best of the best distinction for its entire system as well as its user interface and interaction. REscan is one of many examples of companies that draw upon SRI’s vast technological knowledge and experience. SRI and REscan’s collaboration and innovation are making experiencing interior spaces from a distance a reality.