HxGN Radio

Capturing 3D Reality at the Push of a Button

Close-up of the Leica Geosystems BLK360 imaging laser scanner.

BK:  Welcome back to HxGN Radio. My name’s Brian, thanks for joining us today. Capturing 3D Reality has never been easier. Simple to use, with just a simple push of one button. The Leica BLK360 is the smallest and lightest of imaging laser scanner available. I’m here today with Burkhard Boeckhem, CTO of Hexagon Geosystems, and in today’s episode, we’ll be discussing how the new Leica BLK360 has changed the laser scanning field. Burkhard, thanks for joining us today.

BB:  Yeah, thank you for having me. I’m glad to be here.

BK:  It’s great to have you, and as always, we’re here live and enjoying it. But tell us about the BLK360, I’m curious about this.

BB:  Actually, I have one here with me.

BK:  Ooh, nice, let’s pull that out and see what it looks like.

BB:  Yeah, it’s tiny.

BK:  That is small.

BB:  I open the box, which is a heritage case to our T2, built in 1921, so this is it, you have a scanner, an imaging scanner that fits in your palm. It’s one kilo light, or 2.2 pounds. It has only one button, and that’s the big thing. Push button operation, really simplifying reality capture, it has three panoramic cameras creating a 150 megapixel panorama, and together with 360 points per second, you do reality capture of room like this in under three minutes. Isn’t that amazing?

BK:  Yeah, that’s impressive. And it looks like a Thermos or coffee pot, one of those little coffee-Thermos things, whatever, it’s nice, very small, very light. It’s fantastic.

What does this represent? Tell me a little bit about that. We know it’s the world’s smallest and lightest, but what does that mean for the industry?

BB:  Yeah, for the industry, absolutely. We are famous for doing, for the last 200 years, the most finest and revolutionary measurement instruments, and we have technology that is exclusive to the professionals. And this BLK is the first of its kind, it’s getting the exclusive technology that was just available to few professionals, or the professional arena, not to everyone. So in everyone’s hand, we find now, or can find now, the BLK360, so making reality capture really simple and accessible to everyone.

BK:  Nice, now I understand R&D product development was a little bit different for this. How was it different? How was the development different?

BB:  Very different. So, first of all, we had to make our own disruption. So like a start-up in the company, the team was freshly assembled for this. We had a very agile process, things changed throughout, the only thing that never changed from the beginning was the design. And design is not how it looks, like the shape, design is how it works.

So the notion, the idea of the really simple use with one button, that was there at the beginning, and then everything followed, and we were breaking some rules. We were making some mistakes, we fixed them. And it turned out a really great product.

BK:  That’s great. Tell me a little bit about the inspiration behind this. How did you even create this idea, you know, come up with this?

BB:  We felt like … Once in a while you feel the time is right, you have these premium scanners that we’re really proud of, the HDS Scanner, the P40s, and then you have the consumer world, which wants to get more and more 3D data. But in the middle, there’s nothing. There’s nothing for the architect, there’s nothing for the creative people to be easy accessible, to directly float into their design software. With this in mind, we created the BLK360.

BK:  Excellent. What’s feedback been so far?

BB:  It’s overwhelming. We’ve announced it at Autodesk University, and to be honest, I’ve never seen such amount of selfies and images of people being photographed with the BLK360. It gives a really good feeling.

BK:  Do you have any specific feedback of somebody who’s said, “I’ve used this, and here’s how it’s really helped?”

BB:  Yeah, absolutely. One thing is, it’s really the size. It’s really the size. You can take it in carry on luggage, you can take it basically in your briefcase, wherever you go, together with your iPad, a mini-tripod, you’re ready to go. Actually, this is already, the cover’s already a tripod, you can place it there. So that is the miniature version of being ready to reality capture. And this is the feedback we got, and we got the feedback that we hit the nail right on the spot by also having it seamlessly integrated into Autodesk Recap 360 Mobile. And that then feeds into the complete design suite. So it’s designed for creative people, for architects, for the AEC and it’s very well-appreciated.

BK:  Love it. Obviously this is a huge breakthrough, it’s a wonderful piece of technology. What does that say about Hexagon Geosystems altogether?

BB:  First of all, it says that we are able and capable to do both. On the one hand side, we can push technology to its limit, for example, we have just released this year, the Single Photon Lidar that is airborne on a flying height of 2.5 kilometers, it generate 80 points per square meter, 6 million points per second. It’s a huge stunning for airborne. And then we are capable to take this technology, or our technology that we have in the portfolio in the basket, and integrate it truly and simplify it to devices accessible to everyone.

BK:  I love this. So tell me a little bit about how this is going to work in the field, what are you hoping to achieve with this? What’s the future looking like for this whole thing?

BB:  I really think that we see a game-changing in the AEC world. So, you will be able on-site, scanning of as builds, progress documentation. A lot of issues will be resolved even before they will occur. I think we see it as the phone, as maybe the iPad, as the third device in the briefcase of every architect being on a construction site.

And then we have this track of applications, we cannot think of today. We have a lot of requests of the film industry, TV series, artists, the like, and it’s for a movie production with a lot of special effects, you scan your film set after every scene so you can precisely emote into your digital characters in this, and it becomes … I think we cinematographic reality by the BLK, which we have never seen before.

BK:  That’s fantastic, I like how it’s going beyond industries into other industries and everything else. That’s really … Any other sneak peeks that you can give us? I know we can’t know it all.

BB:  For us, the BLK360 represents two things. First of all, it really shows also with our tradition in technology in premium devices, we are able to do it both. And so the second thing is, the BLK360 is for us internally, also a mind-changer. It gives us a new mindset, new direction, with what we’ve seen with the overwhelming response of people, all the selfies and this, this gives us the feeling that we are on a good track. The BLK360 is a unique product, but the BLK is the first one of its kind, but there’s more to follow.

BK:  That’s great. Great to hear that. Anything else you’d like to share, before we wrap up?

BB:  Yeah, I’m glad to be here and the BLK360 has changed so much for us. We’ve got so much hype and attention by the public. It’s great to be able to create such a breakthrough product from scratch. And as I said, we’re doing both, and we will keep doing both by innovating and pushing technology’s limits. And on the other side, we take this technology and put it, tightly integrate it into workflows and simplified devices.

BK:  Good, well, I’ve been hearing a lot about it all week, so congratulations on this, and thank you so much for sharing it with us, but also with the information as well. Burkhard, thank you very much.

BB:  Thank you very much.

BK:  Appreciate your time. You can learn a lot more about the BLK360 and Leica Geosystems at leica-geosystems.com. Go check that out. And be sure to tune in to more episodes on hxgnradio.com, iTunes, SoundCloud, or Stitcher radio. Thank you for listening, have a great day.