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What is a 360 Camera for Construction Reality Mapping?

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point cloud view of 360 video capture

In construction, both on-site and remote stakeholders are always looking for new ways to improve project visibility. This is especially true regarding remote project monitoring when key stakeholders cannot walk the job site regularly. In the past, such limitations could delay diagnosing construction issues, leading to costly rework, safety concerns, and budget and schedule overruns. 

Fortunately, the emergence of reality mapping technology has brought the job site directly to remote stakeholders without the need for constant travel. In the past, as-built documentation may have been reserved for the final archiving of a completed construction project. But now, advances in photogrammetry have made it easier than ever before for field teams to rapidly capture the reality of a job site and transform that footage into accurate and measurable 2D floorplans and 3D models of a project’s current conditions, also known as a digital twin for construction.

Moreover, reality mapping engines like Reconstruct’s enable data capture using hardware as simple and inexpensive as a smartphone or 360 camera. In this article, we’ll zero in on the 360 camera, what it is, how it differs from a smartphone’s camera, and how construction stakeholders utilize the device to enable frequent remote project monitoring, site surveying, and various other reality mapping use cases.

Key takeaways

  • The 360 camera captures a complete and immersive street view of the camera’s surroundings, making it perfect for weekly reality capture of a job site during construction and visual progress monitoring. 
  • The smartphone offers a highly detailed and sharp image of a limited field of view, whereas the 360 camera provides a comprehensive and immersive one without the need for the camera operator to spin around.
  • 360 cameras can be operated by virtually anybody on a field team at a rapid data capture rate and without formal training. For example, a convenience store can be captured by any employee in about 10 minutes. (Smartphone cameras can be great for filling in the gaps in a 360 capture or focusing on smaller spaces and more focused tasks, such as inspection of concrete slabs and underground utilities, in-wall inspections, and more.)

What is a 360 camera?

A 360 camera is a cutting-edge device that allows users to capture a complete, 360° view of the camera’s surroundings. This provides a panoramic image or video that captures everything within the camera's unobstructed field of vision. Unlike a traditional camera that captures only what’s visible from a limited angle of view, a 360 camera records a spherical image (or video) that lets viewers virtually explore an environment.

Unlike laser scanners and high-priced drones, many 360 cameras cost only a few hundred dollars. And because these devices can be operated by virtually anybody on a job site at a remarkably fast data capture rate, 360 cameras have democratized access to the benefits of reality mapping in construction. Top cameras include those made by Insta 360 and Ricoh.

Related: Reality Capture vs. Reality Mapping for Construction Job Sites

What is the difference between a 360 camera and a smartphone camera for construction reality capture?

The fundamental difference between a smartphone camera and a 360 camera is the field of view. A smartphone camera captures a rectangular image as visualized within a specific frame, inherently limiting the scope of the scene. While the smartphone’s captured images may be very high resolution and remarkably precise, they will only display what was seen from the angle of data capture. This makes them the perfect device for recording specific details on a job site, including performing quality control of a rebar cage prior to placement of concrete, mapping underground utilities, performing an in-wall inspection, and documenting under-ceiling MEP modules.

On the other hand, a 360 camera has an unlimited scope of capture. As previously mentioned, it captures data and images from every angle, providing a comprehensive visual recording of a construction site. This makes 360 cameras ideal for rapid, regular reality capture of a job site throughout construction. An on-site team member can simply perform 360 capture by walking each job site floor and allowing the 360 camera to pick up visuals around them.

While both smartphone and 360 cameras can be used for frequent reality capture, a 360 camera’s footage will automatically provide a more comprehensive view that requires fewer twists and turns from the camera operator. Keep in mind that Reconstruct can bring together all different types of reality data to create one precise representation of a job site that's automatically organized in space and over time. 

Related: Remote Construction Monitoring: The Key to Building Sweden's Tallest Office Tower


In the top image above, a measurable street-view walkthrough is mapped against a floor plan. 360 video was processed with Reconstruct’s photogrammetry engine and AI technique to align the captured results against a floor plan. In the second image above, a point-cloud view of the same 360 video frame offers the blend of the two worlds: (1) an image-based, street-view experience, and (2) a measurable model produced by 3D point clouds.


Above is a detailed 3D mapping of drywall during an in-wall inspection of a residential renovation project. The point cloud shown here was generated with a few-second video taken with a smartphone.

The key benefits of 360 cameras for 360 capture

There are many benefits to utilizing a 360 camera for geo-referenced reality capture, especially considering the relatively low price of the hardware. The top benefits include:

  • More comprehensive documentation that allows for improved project monitoring, visual progress monitoring, visual quality assurance and quality control, and faster dispute resolution and pay applications.
  • Efficiency and resource savings, thanks to the rapid rate of data capture and the reduced need for stakeholder travel to the job site for walk-throughs and on-site measuring.
  • Enhanced communication, especially because immersive 360 images and videos provide a frequent and holistic understanding of construction phases while improving decision-making and reducing misunderstandings by providing stakeholders with a single source of constantly-updating truth.
  • Smarter remote project tracking, especially because even the most complex construction schedule can be compared against the reality of a job site's current conditions via digital twin. 
  • Improved risk mitigation, since frequent documentation of a job site enables early detection of construction issues, safety violations, quality control issues, and problems that could escalate into disputes and legal matters. Moreover, the timestamped digital twin of construction along the project timeline provides an unbiased account of progress should conflict or litigation arise.

When is the best time to use a 360 camera for construction reality capture?

When determining which tool is best for capturing the reality of a given aspect of a job site, stakeholders must weigh available resources against the desired use case. 

360 cameras offer the best of both worlds by providing a quick and inexpensive way to capture a job site without the expense and delay of dispatching expert operators to the site for lengthy site surveys using equipment such as laser scanners. 

In general, construction stakeholders utilize 360 cameras to perform the following:

  • Site surveys, especially since the resultant documentation aids architects and engineers in making design decisions based on accurate site data.
  • Progress monitoring, since 360 cameras provide such a holistic view of a project in such little time.
  • Virtual walk-throughs, because 360 cameras enable stakeholders to become fully immersed in a job site without being physically present. This includes measuring any inch of the job site, pinning concerns directly on visualized problems, and even overlaying 2D and 3D designs and plans against reality models.
  • Final as-built documentation, remote asset inspections, and facility condition assessments, since the 2D floor plans and 3D models generated by reality mapping engines detail the current state of completed construction to empower better facilities management, maintenance, and future renovations and refurbishments.

No matter the size of your construction project or the complexity of your project’s schedule, the 360 camera offers your organization the ability to rapidly capture the current conditions of a job site without disrupting forward progress, requiring expensive equipment, or paying and waiting for an expert to perform a disruptive current conditions assessment of the site.

About Reconstruct

Reconstruct is the leading provider of reality mapping using 360 cameras and virtually any other device, including smartphones, drones, and laser scanners. And unlike other digital twin software, only Reconstruct allows customers to upload any footage captured on any device to create a truly accurate digital twin of a construction project in space and over time.

To learn more about how a 360 camera can unlock frequent, rapid reality capture of your organization’s job site, schedule a personalized demo today.