During a packed event at Autodesk University 2016, Leica introduced the BLK360, a brand-new entry-level scanner. When they brought it out, the room of industry veterans gasped.
Why? The scanner is small—only 6.5” tall, 4” in diameter, and 2.2 pounds. For those of you performing a quick mental comparison, the iPhone 7+ in your pocket is 6.23” tall, and 3.07” wide. The BLK360 is also just as beautiful as the best Silicon Valley has to offer, boasting minimalist industrial design work, a black finish, a glowing green ring around the bottom, and a single button.
I held one at the event, and it looks even better in person.
Despite the visual flair, the BLK360 is no consumer product. It gathers 360,000 points per second with selectable resolution settings. It has a range of 60 meters and scans with 4 mm accuracy.
In addition to a LiDAR sensor, the BLK360 includes infrared sensors for thermal imaging and 360° cameras. These cameras perform spherical imaging with HDR support and LED flash. The scanner performs a full 360° capture in 3 minutes. It’s also totally wireless.
The BLK360 is spec’ed out to be an entry-level Leica scanner, and it is priced to match. With a subscription to Autodesk’s ReCap 360, the BLK360 costs a market-leading $15,990.
Consider the BLK360 Leica’s play to make professional-quality reality capture available to anyone who wants it.
The Other Half: Autodesk ReCap 360 Pro Mobile
You might wonder how you’re supposed to operate a scanner with only one button. Here’s where Autodesk comes in. During the event, Autodesk announced its ReCap 360 Pro Mobile edition, which will run on the iPad and provide a controller for operating the BLK360.
This new iteration of Autodesk’s software registers the BLK360 scans in the field, in real-time. Autodesk’s cloud services enable sharing, or easy transfer of data into any Autodesk design software for further use.
The ease of use is important—the scanning workflow looks remarkably simple, and very intuitive. In other words, the workflow is accessible.
Even Newer than you Realize
As I was speaking to the Leica and Autodesk executives after the announcement, I learned that the BLK360 has been in the works for more than a year. For even longer than that, Leica has been working to fill the gap between extremely low-cost solutions that compromise on accuracy and the field of higher-priced survey scanners favored by the survey and AEC crowd.
Geoff Jacobs, Leica’s senior VP of strategic marketing, explained that the company brought in an entirely new product developer from outside the company to help shake up the project. The final product is a scanner with true democratizing potential and popular appeal.
He also told me that the BLK360 wouldn’t have been possible without the Autodesk partnership. For one, the scanner takes full advantage of Autodesk’s easy to use ReCap 360 software. But it also allows for one other, very important move toward democratization of reality capture technology.
Instead of making the BLK360 available through the regular network of resellers, at a price that changes depending on a number of factors, Leica is going to sell the scanner online. Anyone can log on and buy one.*
First, the company is selling a “golden ticket” promotion on Autodesk’s webstore. These tickets are available on the Autodesk/Leica website, and entitle the holder to three years of ReCap 360 Pro and a $300 voucher than can be redeemed for the purchase of a scanner at Leica’s eCommerce site.
In the long-term, Leica will be selling the scanner through its eCommerce site.
In other words, the BLK360 adds up to big news for the industry, and a legitimate step forward for reality capture. Look for it starting in spring 2017.
* Correction, Nov 21: Previously, the story erroneously stated that Leica will sell the scanner through Autodesk’s distribution network. Leica is promoting the scanner with Autodesk on a shared website, after which it will be available for purchase on Leica’s eCommerce site.