Virtual Design Analysis Group is a division of NVentum, LLC.

This unique collaborative endeavor; to utilize the latest reality capture technology to document the artifacts, buildings and campus of History San Jose, provides opportunities for private sector, non-profits and institutions of higher education to work together to solve some of today's most pressing engineering issues. The protocol for retrofitting as-built historic facilities and the use of new technologies to preserve our most prized historic treasures are vital to the continued success and expanded influence of our museums.
This blog will document the challenges and successes of this ambitious, one of a kind project.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Capturing History San Jose, "The History of Transportation"

1917 Harley Davidson
HSJ Collection Center
The Digital Documentation of History San Jose's collection of unique and varied modes of transportation will require a combination of technologies to properly share our regional history. This will be one of the more challenging aspects of the project and one that I am really looking forward to.

The San Jose History Museum's collection of items range from one of a kind bicycles and scooters to antique autos and railroad engines.

Classic Excelsior
Fortunately, we have some experience with laser scanning difficult and/or unusual items. We've learned a lot through the trial and error method so I'm really excited about the opportunity to properly document these artifacts.
Antique automobiles, trolley cars, trains, horse and buggies, wagons, tractors, emergency response equipment or bicycles; each presents it's own set of challenges. Whether the problem is non-reflective paints and finishes or lots glass and chrome; whether the artifact is the size of a person or larger than a building, we have to be prepared to utilize the best possible documentation techniques to accomplish the task at hand. 

Southern Pacific #1215
Courtesy History San Jose

While I'm really excited about the our ability to bring these artifacts out of the warehouse and online for everyone to view, it is important that we keep in mind the importance of properly documenting the historic items. It would be easy to put together some 3D scans, texture map it and package it as an exhibit. However, the records we are developing are the digital blueprints of the buildings and artifacts that we are charged with preserving for future generations; detailed and accurate documentation is critical to the success of the project.
In some instances the size and dimensions of the artifact(s) may  influence the technology and documentation  processes required for the job. Standard laser scanners are perfect for much of the work we have planned. However, smaller items require  different techniques when creating a digital record. In those instances hand held laser scanners, 3D/HD cameras, standard laser scanners are all part of the equation. Some artifacts will require a combination of all the three technologies/techniques to properly document them.

Capturing HSJ is a multi-layered project with several steps and components. The most important element of the project is the gathering and processing of the data. The more thorough the data, the more options you have for post production.
1915 Metz

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Silicon Valley's "Smithsonian West"

 San Jose is home to one of California's most unique and eclectic historic collections. The San Jose History Park is 14 acres of manicured grounds and historic structures. 
Japanese Internment Document
Courtesy History San Jose

"History San Jose' collects, preserves and celebrates the stories of diversity and innovation in San Jose' and the Santa Clara Valley." From HSJ Webpage

No where is this diversity reflected more than in the vast and varied collection of artifacts both on display and in the museum's collection center. 
What are some of the things one might find in this unusual collection?
Califaro Tank House- Built 1880
Courtesy History San Jose

Buildings: (1880s-1920s) Homes, Commercial Buildings, Small Businesses, Temples, Cabins, Barns
Dr. Warburton's Examination Chair
Courtesy History San Jose
(1800-2010) Kitchen Appliances, Utensils, Industrial Tools, Manufacturing Equipment, Tractors, Lathes, Printing Presses, Typewriters, Telephones, Ice Boxes, Plows, Wagons, Pianos, Household Furniture, Native American Bowls/Utensils

Milk Machine
Courtesy History San Jose
Transportation: (1840s-1940s) Automobiles, Bicycles, Motorcycles, Scooters, Trolleys, Trains, Trucks
1915 Excelsior Auto Cycle
Button Trolley
Courtesy HSJ (1790s-2012) Paintings, Etchings, Carvings, Historic Documents, Letters, Spanish Regional Maps, Mexican Regional Maps, Arial Maps, Land Grant Documents, Newspapers/Periodicals, Films, Lithographs, Native American Tools

1917 Harley Davidson
Electronics: (1900-Present) Computers, Televisions, Teletype Machines, Transmitters, Decoders, Generators, PC Boards, Phonographs, Victrolas, Listening Devices, Tape Recorders, Radios, Broadcast Equipment, Video Recorders, Video Games, Prototypes.

Courtesy History San Jose
The San Jose History Museum is home to over 500,000 artifacts; 95% of these artifacts are currently in storage and unavailable to the public. There are three primary reasons for this;1) there isn't enough space to display all of the artifacts.2) the museum's collection is constantly expanding. History isn't just about what happened years ago, but what happened yesterday. 3)) most of the museum's work is conducted by volunteers. With over 500,000 artifacts and the research required to properly preserve them, the processes are time intensive.
1903 DeForest Wrls Responder
Photo Courtesy History San Jose

One of the major benefits to the "Capturing History" project is that many of these unseen artifacts can be displayed in the virtual museum setting. The virtual museum isn't restricted by walls and square footage that limit traditional museums. By digitally documenting the contents of the collection center, many of these artifacts will be seen by the public for the first
time in decades.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Peralta Adobe and the FARO 3D Focus Scanner

On March 21st, we gathered at the historic Peralta Adobe in downtown San Jose for a demonstration of FARO's newest laser scanner, the 3D Focus.
FARO representative Matt Daly was on site to give us a hand's on demo of the scanner and a look at the raw data gathered from the Peralta Adobe. In a little more than one hour, we took a total of seven (7) scans; five (5) scans were taken outside the building and two (2) were taken inside the historic structure. The results can be seen in the YouTube video below.

This was our first time using FARO equipment and I must say we were really impressed. In comparison to our current laser, it is smaller, lighter, with tons of features and cost a third of the price. How can you not be impressed? Of course, we are comparing the latest laser scanning technology with a scanner that is 7 years old so you would expect some major innovations have taken place.

There are a lot of things that this latest generation of laser scanners offer that make life easier for operators but the most important from my perspective is time. The FARO 3D focus has a built-in HD camera that makes texture mapping as simple as pressing a button. The self registering software cuts post production time  in half and the relatively small foot print of the scanner means you can access areas that other scanners can't.

All in all, it was a great experience and we are looking forward to working with FARO on the completion of the Peralta Adobe project. Stay tuned for more updates and info

For a more information of FARO products, please contact Matthew Daly:

For more information on the Peralta Adobe, please visit the History San Jose webpage at

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Documentation of the Peralta Adobe

San Jose Historic Marker #1
California Historic Marker #866
On March 21st, the representatives of FARO and NVentum, LLC. will begin the digital documentation of the Peralta Adobe in downtown San Jose. Beginning at 12 noon, the historic adobe structure will be laser scanned using FARO's state of the art 3D Focus High Speed Scanner. Immediately following the scanning of the Peralta Adobe, demo of the data will begin at 2:00pm.
San Jose's oldest structure, the Peralta Adobe was constructed in 1797 by Manuel Gonzalez. The property was eventually name for Luis Maria' Peralta, the home's most famous resident.
The Peralta Adobe is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and the first site recognized as part of the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail.

Peralta Adobe Interior
FARO representative Matt Daly will be demonstrating the company's latest laser scanning equipment, the 3D High Focus Laser Scanner. We are currently using the Leica Geosystems 6000 series scanner for our project w/History San Jose and for the most part, we've been pleased with the results. As the project begins to move into high gear, we realize the need to purchase additional equipment to meet the demands of the task ahead. Comfort and familiarity led us to immediately consider purchasing Lieca's next generation laser scanner. However, we have been hearing rave reviews about FARO's products from a variety of respected individuals in both the construction and preservation professions. After receiving a link to Blach Construction's video documenting their collaborative work with FARO at Mission Carmel, I decided it was time to talk with the folks at FARO.
The Leica dilemma is one that we struggled with for quite sometime and ultimately led to our conversations and subsequent collaboration with FARO. We have had a real love/hate relationship with the product that is hard to overcome. On the one hand, the equipment is excellent and the end product is unquestionably outstanding. The Leica 6000 series scanner NVentum uses is one of the earlier scanners on the market. Yet, this scanner is capable of capturing up to 1 million points per second, still more than many modern lasers are capable of of capturing.
On the other hand, the Leica is expensive; twice the cost of the FARO. It's bigger, heavier and after a long day of work, you really feel how heavy it is. Granted, Leica's new C5 and C10 laser scanners capture more data and have a much farther range. (FARO's 3D Focus  is designed to capture 976,000 measured points per second with a range of 120m.) For what we are going to accomplish on this project, will the added capacity and range of the Leica warrant the additional cost?

The FARO 3D Focus features self registration, touch screen display and a built-in digital camera. It's compact size gives it an advantage when transporting and when working in confined spaces. In comparison with our current Leica scanner, it's lighter, has more features and maintenance/upkeep is less expensive.
The March 21st demo at the Peralta Adobe will be my introduction to FARO equipment. While I've heard lots of good things about FARO, I know that different applications for this technology result in a variety of expectation levels and evaluation criteria. A piece of technology that a surveyor might think  is great, may be rather useless for a person in other skill trades.While I'm optimistic about the results of the Peralta Adobe project, I've learned to wait until the results are in before offering an opinion.
Peralta Adobe
California Historic Site #866
As usual, I will share the results of our scanning project with FARO on this blog. If you are interested in attending the FARO demo at the Peralta Adobe on March 21st, please RSVP to Alida Bray, Executive Director of the San Jose History Museum at 408 287-2290.

For Information on FARO, visit

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

SMART BUILDINGS: The Benefits of BIM Technology

The Technology
“SMART Building Technology” or Building Information Modeling (BIM) is a collection of software and hardware products and services that use data and information about a building and its environment to automatically optimize the building’s operation and maintenance according to user requirements. Pioneered by some of technology’s most progressive and innovative leaders; Cisco Systems, Hewlett Packard, Johnson Controls and Siemens Corporation, SMART Building Technology takes many different forms but is ultimately enabled by the availability of low cost actuators , sensors and proliferation of data networking across an urban environment. A SMART building has the infrastructure necessary to identify and correct its own sub-optimal operation, adapt to changes in user requirements and interact with its occupants.

Johnson Controls
Sensor Product Family
Energy Efficiency: More accurate monitoring and controls of energy intensive systems like HVAC and lighting help keep inefficiencies in check. The careful measurement and monitoring of energy use for the purpose of reducing consumption is the hallmark of Green and SMART buildings. Owners/tenants can expect to have a reduced effect on the environment.
CO2 Organic
Compound Sensor

Fast, Effective Service: BIM technology gives owners the tools needed to better serve guest, occupants and students. Recent innovations allow facility professionals to access building systems via secure intranet, making it easier to answer questions and monitor building performance. Problems are identified early and solved immediately.

Siemens Air Velocity Sensor
Simplified Property Management:  Maintenance crews will no longer take pressure readings, adjust valves by hand or search through stacks of blueprints and schematics to find information.  Adjustments are made and information obtained from the network operation center, the 3D model, with just a few simple keystrokes. The result is a streamlined facility management operation.

Enhanced Life Safety and Security: Innovations in fire response allow other building systems to react to alarms: exhaust dampeners open, the IP and paging systems issue instructions of occupants, the access control systems unlock doors for evacuation and access to emergency responders, CCTV cameras provide emergency responders with a view of the environment.

Siemens Humidity
Indoor Air Quality: BIM technology provides building owners/operators with the ability to monitor Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) and take appropriate actions to minimize the negative effects of contaminants, humidity and pollutants on museum artifacts and objects.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Digital Preservation of Historic Artifacts.

Among Thousands of Artifacts
at the History Park;
Photo of St James Hotel, cir.1890
So Far...
The post on this blog have focused heavily on the documentation of historic buildings, the creation of a 3D model of the History Park and possible uses for the completed 3D model. Though one of  the early stated goals of this project was the documentation of the museum's 50,000+ artifacts, there hasn't been much discussion about the processes we intend to employ. In fact, artifact documentation will be the most challenging aspect of the entire project.  The unique nature of this collection requires some innovative strategies for digital documentation and exhibition.
Traditional Digital Documentation
Technology May Be Appropriate For
Some Artifacts
Given NVentum's affinity for and expertise in laser scanning technology, one would assume that the majority of the documentation would be done with lasers of some type. What makes this project so unique is the diversity, size and scope of the History San Jose collection. This unique collection requires a plan that integrates a variety of techniques and technologies to properly document the museum's artifacts and property. The museum's collection varies from electronic devices to clothing; from paintings and manuscripts to automobiles and kitchen utensils. Laser scanning technology may be appropriate for the documentation of some artifacts, however multiple approaches and techniques will be necessary to complete the task at hand.
The vast majority of the museum's artifacts are stored in the museum's collection center, unavailable for exhibition and unseen by the public. A major objective of this project is to enable the public to view these historic items. The museum's ability to display and exhibit these artifacts is limited by the amount of exhibit

Tubes from the Deforest Collection - 1920

space available on the property.  A virtual, online exhibition has no such limitations. The 3D documentation of these artifacts will provide the foundation for future online exhibits that would otherwise occupy space in a warehouse, away from view of the public.
The documentation of the historic buildings and grounds is a relatively simple task in comparison to documenting the museum's artifacts. Laser scanning technology has been developed specifically for construction, design and surveying applications. The creation of a 3D model of the park and its' buildings won't be a first. If you go to YouTube, you can can see 3D laser scans of all types. The difference in this project can be found in its "layers". Starting with comprehensive documentation, this project includes BIM, asset management, exhibition,  marketing, preservation and sales.
NDI Vicrascan
Handheld Laser Scanner
The documentation of the History Museum's artifacts presents several inherent problems. As mentioned in previous blog posts, laser scanning technology has limitations when it comes to artifacts with extremely high levels of reflectivity or extremely low levels of reflectivity. Given these facts, we have pinpointed some items of concern within the museum collection. Discussions about the type of techniques available and possible answers/solutions to new challenges have begun in detail. If we choose to use laser scanners, how will we address the highly reflective chrome handle bars of the museum's antique Harley Davidson Motorcycles? When documenting antique clothing, is there a benefit in laser scanning vs HD photography? There are dozens of questions that immediately come to mind when discussing the documentation of artifacts.

1913 Deforest RJ4 Detector Box

1946 Harley Davidson
FARO Laser Scanner
Photo of Lefebvre Bicycle Taken w/Fisheye lens