VPC files – what are they and how do they work?

Veesus users will be familiar with VPC files, but for those who don’t use our software yet, VPC files are our own special file type, which we designed to work with our various apps and programs. It’s easy to convert any point cloud file into a VPC file using our VPC creator (download it here). In this blog, I’m going to explain a bit more about why we created VPC files and how they help Veesus software do the incredible things it can do.

Point cloud files: lots of data, not much structure

Like other digital devices, laser scanners produce files – but the files from laser scanners contain large volumes of three-dimensional data which makes up the point cloud. Point clouds are in what we call “flat file formats,” which means that the data is written to the disk in one continuous sequence. This is largely true of all the major point cloud file formats, including LAS, E57 and PTS files.

Because the data isn’t structured, every time a computer needs to find a record from the file it has to search the whole file to find what it’s looking for – even though most users are only ever interested in working on a portion of the data at any given moment. Imagine having to look through every song in your Spotify library any time you wanted to play a track; it would take a long time to listen to your music! This structure of point cloud files makes them poor for processing tasks, and even worse for visualisation.

To give you an idea of the scale of the visualisation challenge: a typical computer can display around 10 million points on the screen at one moment. If you were trying to view a point cloud using VR software, those 10 million points need to be redrawn 200 times a second – per eye. And every time that happens, the computer has to read the entire file to find the right points to display.

On top of all that, most point cloud files are so large that the computer’s RAM can’t hold the entire file, meaning that only subsets of the data can be reviewed at any one time. These factors are why most point cloud professionals have relied on highly specialised, powerful, and expensive computers to work with point cloud data – and even then they’ve struggled. Enter the VPC file…

Bringing order to chaos with VPC files and the XStreamEngine

The magic of the VPC file is that it indexes and compresses the three-dimensional records in a point cloud file, so that our software can easily identify and retrieve only the relevant data that a user needs for a task.

VPC Creator converts traditional point cloud files into VPC files at a rate of around 150 million points per minute, which means that users can convert truly massive point clouds into VPC format and start working with them quickly. Plus, VPC files are around 30% the size of the corresponding point cloud file – meaning that they can be much more easily stored and read by your computer. When combined with the XStreamEngine in our software, this means that VPC files let Veesus display point cloud information much faster than other software can manage with a regular point cloud file – making even VR visualisation possible.

What could you do with the XStreamEngine and VPC files?

For our existing users, I hope this information helps you understand how our software delivers the results you expect (and explains why we ask you to convert your traditional point cloud formats into VPC files). For those who aren’t yet Veesus users, just picture what your life would be like if you started using VPC files and Veesus software. You would save a lot of disk space as your VPC files would be much smaller, and you’d find yourself able to get to work so much faster with your point cloud data. The pairing of VPC files and the XStreamEngine is present in every piece of software Veesus produces – Arena4D, our plug-ins for Rhino and SolidWorks, and even Zappcha, our app that enables users of LiDAR-enabled iOS devices to capture point clouds. 

Veesus’ ability to almost instantly display any part of a point cloud is what enables our users to achieve some outstanding results for them and their clients. If you’d like to find out more about what our clients are doing with our software, check out our customer stories. And if you’d like to get started with Veesus software and discover the power of VPC files for yourself, head to our downloads page to get a free trial of our software.

Tags: data streaming, point clouds, Veesus products

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