Case Studies

A Nagoya Underground Mall Measured by FARO Laser Scanner Focus3D

A Nagoya Underground Mall Measured by FARO Laser Scanner Focus<sup>3D</sup>

A Gaze Up from Below: A Surprising 3D Image of the Ground

Dr. Eiji Nakamura’s research group from Aichi Institute of Technology’s campus in Toyota City, Aichi Prefecture, has a familiar image of the ESCA – an underground mall connected to the eastern side of the Japan Railway Nagoya Station – on display in the room. At first glance, the image of ESCA spanning across the computer screen appears to be a welltaken photograph. However, it is in fact the point cloud data of ESCA in color, acquired by the FARO Laser Scanner Focus3D.

When the perspective and view angles are adjusted on the computer, users can see the ground-level electronic retail store from the underground mall, as well as obtain the layout of ESCA that is located beneath the station square.

Dr. Nakamura shared, “The ESCA personnel who collaborated with us in this project involving the Focus3D was shocked when he first saw the point cloud data depicting the mall, both underground and above. He remarked at how it resembled an ant’s nest!”



Top: Station Square on the western side of Japan Railway Nagoya Station.
Bottom: The point cloud data view of the ESCA Underground Mall that resembles an ant’s nest.

Scanning in 17 Locations at Midnight

While Nagoya may not be Japan’s largest city, as far as the number of underground shopping malls is concerned, it is unbeatable. Some of these underground shopping malls might be demolished in future to make way for further development, such as the building of the Chuo Shinkansen, a maglev line designed to connect the major cities of Tokyo, Nagoya, and Osaka. In order to preserve this piece of history, Dr. Nakamura came up with the idea to map and record Nagoya City’s underground malls in point cloud data, immortalizing the iconic post-war shopping center.

To achieve this unprecedented effort, Dr. Nakamura sought help from Mr. Mamoru Narisawa of ESCA, one of the many underground shopping malls in Nagoya City. Mr. Narisawa agreed to participate in this project as he hoped that it would invoke more interest amongst the public to shop in the underground mall.

At that time, Kimoto Co., Ltd. – a company that specializes in selling “Geoverse” point cloud viewer software, developing Software Development Kits (SDK), and in data processing – was also willing to offer free assistance to the team. With that, the experimental project by Aichi Institute of Technology, ESCA, and Kimoto finally began.

The team, consisting of co-researcher Dr. Yoshiyuki Yamamoto and five other post-graduate research students, needed to obtain scans at 17 different locations near the entry and exit points of ESCA. It was a challenging process because the team could only work in the wee hours of the night, a time when pedestrian traffic would not disrupt the scanning process. The team took one night to scan each location, and ESCA assisted by opening the fire shutters that would normally be closed at night, so that the Focus3D could obtain unobstructed scans of the mall.

“In addition to the entire underground mall, we also scanned the ground level, street scape areas near the exits,” explained Dr. Nakamura. “The volume of point cloud data we collected was around 0.5TB in size.”

FARO SCENE, a point cloud data processing software that comes with the Focus3D, was used to register and position the scan data collected. The team used the software to stitch the data from various scans together into one data file.


Late night scanning that begin from the exits of the underground shopping mall.


Example of a point cloud data view of the ESCA with artificial targets that facilitate scan registration, for combining multiple scans into one.


Realistic image of the ESCA on a 4K Projector in Aichi Institute of Technology.

“Normally, it would have been difficult to read and view such a large amount of point cloud data on a computer,” said Dr. Nakamura. “However, ‘Geoverse’ point cloud data viewer allows for smooth and easy viewing of scan data,” he added as he navigated freely between underground and ground level views.

Multiple Uses for a Single Set of Point Cloud Data

Adding to the point cloud data of the underground mall, the team created 3D models of the water supply, sewerage pipes, and manholes. As a result, the unseen utility lines that support the life of the city, which are buried in the vicinity of the mall, can now be seen.

Dr. Nakamura further explained, “When we first approached ESCA for this project, we proposed using the data to simulate interior design or event decorations. However, when we actually saw the scanned data, we discovered that it provided an entirely different set of benefits. With it, we better understood the positional relationship of the underground mall with what was situated above ground level, and it also allowed us to create cross-sectional views of the area.”


Positional relationship of utility lines clearly presented in the model.


A 3D image that connects the street level and the underground mall.

Apart from acting as a promotional aid for ESCA, the point cloud data also created awareness and appreciation for utility lines (e.g. communication networks, water supply lines, sewerage pipes, electricity and gas connections, etc.), and the important role they play in providing behind-the-scene support for daily needs. Moreover, since the scanned data retains the absolute size of the objects, ESCA also has the added advantage of using 3D data to effectively chalk out construction plans.

Dr. Nakamura said, “Another benefit of this project is that the point cloud data can be published on a website for the general public. That plan is to eliminate noise from the point cloud data before making it available online. We expect high web traffic and a desire to view the ESCA underground mall from a variety of angles. Their interest in the model may translate to a visit to the mall in person, thereby contributing to the publicity of ESCA.”

At present, the capabilities and function of 3D laser scanners and point cloud data are not yet widely known. Having seen the scanned point cloud data of ESCA, however, Mr. Narisawa has requested for additional scanning of the shops’ interiors.

When asked about exploring possible prospects for the near future, Dr. Nakamura said, “First of all, it is important that we demonstrate the capabilities of a 3D laser scanner to others. Once the device’s strengths become obvious, the various ways in which 3D data can be used will develop and expand in ways unimaginable. For instance, in the United States, 3D documentation of urban infrastructure has already garnered comments from the public, and the authorities are also using point cloud data for urban planning. It would be great if Japan can embrace this too.”


Point cloud data of ESCA as seen from deep underground perspective. The presentation of underground structures is unique to point cloud view.

Widened Research Scope with Focus3D – Construction and Civil Engineering

Prior to his interaction with the Focus3D in 2011, Dr. Nakamura had been conducting research on compound or multi-faceted eyes of insects. That all changed when he came into contact with the Focus3D. The scope of his research gradually extended to include construction and civil engineering.

“Focus3D was first introduced when my research involved 3D scans of the human face,” recalled Dr.Nakamura. “The Focus3D was selected because it was significantly more affordable than other devices. Since then, the range of scan objects rapidly grew to include our university’s roads and buildings. The point cloud data scanning project of the ESCA underground mall is an extension of this.”

In fact, Dr. Nakamura once scanned the entire university campus with the Focus3D and a car-mounted mobile mapping system called ‘MMS’, collecting a total of 10TB worth of point cloud data.

Dr. Nakamura concluded, “We are in the process of obtaining 3D documentation of the University’s facilities by creating 3D models based on the drawings of around 600 items – including manholes, water supply lines, electricity, gas, and rainwater pipes – all of which are buried underground. We also plan to present a small city model at academic and public conferences.”


Point cloud data of the Aichi Institute of Technology’s entire campus.

About Aichi Institute of Technology


Established in 1959, the Aichi Institute of Technology consists of the Faculty of Engineering and Business Administration, the Faculty of Information Science, and the Graduate School. Aichi Institute of Technology has campuses in Yakusa in Toyota City, as well as Jiyugaoka and Motoyama in Nagoya City. The Institute has approximately 6,100 students in enrolment as at May 2014, and its teaching motto is “Creativity and Humanity”.


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