Reviewer: William Bush, Senior Trooper, Oregon State Police
Version tested: v4.0 beta release
Where it shines: “The biggest advance is in the top-level interface. The developers identified the tools that are most frequently used—such as zoom extents, constraining orbits and snaps—and consolidated them into incredibly accessible places. Having that all right there is fantastic for ease of use. Additionally, Map360 v4.0 adheres to Leica Geosystems’ foundational dedication to precision and survey-grade accuracy, which is crucial to making a case impenetrable by any defense argument.”
Where it needs improvement: “I would like to see a quick link to turn a leader line into a dynamic label, as well as the ability to automatically include the elevation position of imported images in the properties.”*
The bottom line: “Map360 v4.0 is positioned to support every user, from the basic to the most advanced. It has particularly made very large strides in being user friendly for entry-level personnel while still addressing the most advanced uses. I haven’t found a use case yet where it hasn’t met or exceeded the need. It is worth an evaluation by every agency.”
Overall Rating: 5 stars
Within the last few years, technology advances have significantly streamlined the ability of collision reconstructionists and crime scene investigators to capture and document crucial measurements and evidence on a scene. Total station and GNSS measurements are increasingly supplemented by high-resolution aerial photogrammetry from unmanned aircraft systems (UAS, also called UAVs or drones) and detailed point clouds from 3D laser scanners. Agencies such as Oregon State Police have even gone so far as to incorporate survey-grade mobile mapping data from their state department of transportation to expedite the reopening of roadways while providing comprehensive scene documentation.
But with the proliferation of digital data comes an increasing complexity in combining the data for analysis and presentation. Scene diagramming and reconstruction software historically has required extensive training to use and has lacked the flexibility to address the breadth of workflows encountered in most departments.
According to Oregon State Police District 1 Lead Collision Reconstructionist William Bush, the latest version of Map360 overcomes these challenges. “It doesn’t matter what we bring in from the field—whether the dataset we have is a point cloud or photogrammetry, or if we simply have total station data or real time kinematic GPS—everything comes into and merges in Map360,” he says. “There hasn’t been any dataset that we’ve brought in that it can’t render for us. And it’s really easy to use.”
Easy Access to All the Right Tools
Bush has used several previous versions of Map360 over the last four years and relies on the power of the CAD-based software engine to handle complex datasets from complicated crash scenes. Although the tech-savvy senior trooper is an expert user of the software and often trains other public safety professionals in its use, the realities of the job require him to continually push for more efficient ways to apply agency resources. Using software that is more accessible across the entire agency—without requiring extensive training and troubleshooting—provides a significant benefit.
“It’s been amazing to watch how the developers have listened to the feedback from the field to tailor Map360 to the end users,” he says. “The tools that have been added and the way they have been reorganized in this version has compressed and expedited the workflow.”
One example is the base ribbons, which have made popular tools such as zoom extents, constraining orbits and snaps easily accessible. “Previously, we had to customize our own ribbon to be able to bring those to an accessible place for our users,” Bush says.
The streamlined momentum tool provides an effective way to illustrate angles, and crush analysis tools have also been improved.
Users working with point clouds can build presentations regardless of their skill level. “Less proficient users won’t have a problem going through and understanding how to clip and limit or do a slice because of the way the point cloud interfaces with Map360—it’s so user-friendly,” Bush says.
Dynamic labeling—the ability to add labels that automatically adjust as you navigate through a scene—has continued to improve with each version of the software. Working with multiple layers and viewpoints is also simpler in the newest release.
“I need to have an interface where I can call out specific features, make and illustrate measurements, highlight specific items of evidence, create a scenario in a cluttered scene where I can have a legend and an evidence map—Map360 does all that,” Bush says. “For entry level users, compared to any other software that has equivalent power, the tools and ease of use in this version are outstanding.”
Ability to Handle Complex Datasets and Large Files
A common challenge with scene diagramming and reconstruction software is working with complex datasets and large files, especially orthomosaic images captured with drones and processed in photogrammetry software. Here, too, the newest release of Map360 continues to outperform. “I throw a lot of really strange things at this software that I’ve seen make other versions and other programs crash,” says Bush.
As an example, he recently worked on a case that included a 3GB geoTIFF. When he pulled the imagery into Map360, the software handled the file flawlessly, automatically tied it back to the RTK control from the scene, and all the data was in the right place.
While Bush primarily focuses on collision reconstruction, some of his colleagues handle crime scene reconstruction. Depending on the needs and complexity of the scene, the agency uses total stations, GNSS, laser scanning, drones and mobile mapping data for scene documentation. All of the deliverables—from 2D basic diagrams, floorplans, and reports to 3D flythroughs and animations—are created in Map360. “One of the greatest strengths of the software is that it’s been able to render every dataset that we’ve brought in,” Bush says.
Confidence in Court
The ultimate objective, of course, is to bring cases to justice. While case files are often closed without a trial, every investigation has to be thorough—and accurate—enough to withstand scrutiny in the courtroom. For Bush, having confidence in his scene diagrams and reconstructions is imperative.
“The core of Leica has always been about precision and survey-grade accuracy, and Map360 v4.0 adheres to that standard,” he says.
He explains how he uses the data tab in the software to pull up a measurement log (illustrated above), which tells him the exact horizontal standard deviation on any point. “That’s the strength of my case,” he says. “There’s always a degree of uncertainty. But being able to go into court and admit that my uncertainty on that point on the horizontal axis was .006 ft., and on the vertical axis was .0093 ft.—we can argue about that, but I’m completely forthcoming and I gave you very clear references to exactly what my degrees of uncertainty were. That’s what keeps me warm when I’m up on the stand.”
Being able to view the scene from different perspectives and create additional deliverables from one consolidated dataset through a single interface adds another element of confidence. Adjustments can be made at anytime and are fully traceable. Not having to recreate deliverables minimizes the probability of error. “Because we’re not recreating the deliverables, we’re not going to get accused of any type of manipulation. It was all there in the beginning and discoverable to the defense. It’s quick, clean and transparent.”
As Bush continues to explore new applications of technology in public safety and push hardware and software developers for more capabilities, he’s excited about the progress that has already been made. “Map360 has been an amazing platform to work with over the course of the last four years and watch it evolve, and to be part of that evolution,” he says. “Every version has been an improvement, and this one is no exception. It’s positioned to support every user and every need, from the basic to the most advanced.”
*Note: Based on feedback from the beta test users, the ability to automatically include the elevation position of imported images is a capability that has been added in the full version of the release.
Download a demo to explore whether Map360 is right for you. To speak with a public safety consultant about your scene documentation and mapping needs, please contact us.