The fact of the Matterport

Use this tool to make a 3D virtual tour of any interior space, increasing its visibility and its cool factor

'HEART AND SOUL' OF HOAGY. Take a spin around the Hoagy Carmichael Room's virtual tour to get a feel for one of IU's most famous graduates.

Maybe you’re a grad student studying the architecture of Greek Orthodox churches, but an overseas trip to visit one in person just isn’t in your budget. Or you’re an IU physics professor hoping to entice faraway graduate students to your lab with a virtual tour.

The UITS Advanced Visualization Lab (AVL) has the tool to help—the Matterport. This technology takes high-quality, 360-degree captures of building interiors, while also making 3D models of these spaces. The whole system fits in a case about the size of a piece of carry-on luggage (all except the tripod), and it’s designed to be super user friendly.

“The technology is very easy to use—I’d recommend it to anyone,” said Elizabeth Prout, the AVL analyst/programmer in charge of IU’s Matterport effort. AVL serves the entire IU community, and Prout said the Matterport is available to any faculty, staff, or student as long as they are working on something for the university.

“The technology is very easy to use—I’d recommend it to anyone,” said Elizabeth Prout, the AVL analyst/programmer in charge of IU’s Matterport effort.

“It’s really a cool and efficient tool,” she said. “You can get a decent-sized room completely scanned in less than four hours. The camera rotates itself, so most of what you have to do is done, and you send it off to Matterport to be rendered by their equipment.”

‘User-friendly, quick and dirty capture’

In the two years that AVL has had its two Matterport devices, over 70 spaces have been “Matterported,” as Prout refers to the process. Here are a few examples, including the Greek church mentioned above: 

(To see a full list of AVL Matterports, check out showcase.avl.iu.edu/projects.)

You might be wondering how Matterports differ from models created through other high-tech methods. Readers will recall our story, “The magic of photogrammetry,” which described that process of extracting three-dimensional models from a set of hundreds of two-dimensional photographs.

It really comes down to simplicity. “Matterports are more of a user-friendly, quick and dirty capture, while photogrammetry is finely granular in detail, color, and texture,” Prout said.

This explains why Matterports are perfect for tours, nostalgia, and historical preservation. With a virtual tour, you can give full access to a space without exposing it to a lot of risk. And, you increase its accessibility and visibility because anyone with an internet connection can take a spin around the room.

“The Matterport we did of the Hoagy Carmichael Room was beautiful—we’re really proud of this one,” Prout said. Designed as a memorial to Indiana's famous songwriter and performing artist, the space holds priceless pieces of memorabilia—music manuscripts, photographs, lyric sheets, and more—donated to Indiana University.

The room is open by appointment only, but with Matterport, you can peruse the collection anytime. Bonus: By clicking on Mattertags, virtual visitors can get extra snippets of content about the room (kind of like an episode of VH-1’s “Pop-Up Video” TV show).

Do you have a space you’d like to Matterport? Email the AVL directly, and keep an eye out for an upcoming tutorial in February.