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What's in a mesh? Why 3D data matters.

In 2011, when we looked at the landscape of virtual representations of real spaces, we saw a big hole that needed filling. Nothing on the market that called itself a “3D tour” actually let us interact with a space the way we really wanted – as if it were real. That’s part of the problem we’re solving at Matterport. Our goal is to create virtual experiences that feel truly real, whether viewed on the web, on mobile devices, or in virtual reality.

And that’s why we decided to create something new. Matterport 3D spaces knit together photographic data and dimensional data of a space to produce something that goes beyond simply morphing a single two-dimensional panorama into another. We create an actual, complete digital replica of a real space. And our true differentiator is really the part that you don’t see – the mesh.

What we call a “textured mesh” is the result of all the spatial data that is collected by the camera and processed in our cloud. A textured mesh is a dimensionally accurate, 3D map of a space that is represented by a set of polygons onto which we overlay colored textures. The textured mesh includes walls, floors, and ceilings, as well as all of the individual objects within the space. We then project the spherical 2D photography that the camera collects onto the textured mesh to provide photographic visual quality within the 3D space.

When combined, all this photographic and spatial data is processed to create an exceptionally real navigational experience. In virtual reality, this feeling is called presence – the visceral sense of being immersed in another reality. This technique of combining 3D and 2D data sets lets us create a realistic sense of movement as our models are navigated because we use the textured mesh during the transitions between spherical photographs.

It also lets us offer our unique Dollhouse view, which gives you an overall understanding of a complete space. Without a complete textured mesh that includes everything in the space, this wouldn’t be possible. Similarly, the Floor Plan view is generated from the mesh and would not otherwise be possible. Finally, because the mesh is dimensionally accurate, you are able to take measurements anywhere within the space using our Workshop application.

Because our 3D Showcase player is built to provide a smooth, photographically rich experience, we know that the importance of a high-quality mesh sometimes gets forgotten.

As we expand our content to be usable on new platforms, like virtual reality, and with new applications that let you annotate and even modify the model, the importance of a high-quality textured mesh only increases.

As you’re creating models now, keep in mind that this data could be used for a number of applications in the future. That’s why it’s so important to scan thoroughly, and try to get behind furniture and into every nook and cranny. (Remember, if you over-scan, you can still turn those positions off in Workshop to produce a clean walkthrough experience, while keeping the advantage of all that great mesh data.) Even smaller rooms like a bathroom or laundry room should have no fewer than 2 scan positions, so that any point in space is seen from multiple angles. This generates the best quality geometry.

We see too many otherwise great models with bits of rooms or parts of couches missing. Snagging that one extra scan position is always worth it!