UX Design Success Story: Visual Alignment, Solving the Puzzle

How Scanning Works video

One of the primary tasks in point cloud software is to register and unify many individual point clouds of 3D data scanned and generated by the laser scanner. To scan a building site, there will often be over 20 scans, sometimes hundreds, that must be accurately aligned, locked down in registration with the others, so in the end there is one unified point cloud for the entire building site.

This simple animation I created as part of Laser Scanning: How It All Works illustrates the multiple scan concept.

Prior method of cloud to cloud registration in 2 windows

Product Management and Application Engineering were looking for a new way, a faster, more intuitive method, for aligning scans together. The prior method of cloud to cloud registration used a text table to select a pair of probable scans from, and users had to depend upon field notes for guidance. Then the two scans appeared in two windows, and three similar points had to be selected in each view (Figure 2). The user had to be careful to be in "multi-select" mode, or matching points would be lost. It was a slow, clumsy and imprecise UX.

After thoroughly researching the UX, I came up with an idea of manipulating 2 scans and matching up common features visually. It seemed very intuitive, and I was able to prototype and give live demonstrations of the new concept by simply taking two top view slices of scans, placing them on different layers in Photoshop, colorizing one orange and the other cyan, moving and rotating one scan until it intersected with the other.

Figure 3: Visual Alignment High Level Workflow

To gracefully arrive at the visual alignment canvas, first the user needs a bin to look at all his or her "puzzle pieces", the scans that will eventually all be linked together into one big picture. We collaborated on a method of generating thumbnails and large reference stills of each scan, so users could select two scans with common features that were likely to interlock (Figure 3).

The addition of this new feature was a huge hit with our customer beta testers, who excitedly claimed more than doubling their productivity time in scan registration. The visual alignment UX can be viewed in this online video: Cyclone 9.0 - Visual Alignment Registration Tools

Here is a shorter video which clearly shows how simple and easy to use the UX concept is. Cloud-to-Cloud Registration using Visual Alignment