Physics-Based Graphics Models in 3D Synthetic Environments as Autonomous Vision-Based Inspection Testbeds

Vedhus Hoskere, Yasutaka Narazaki, Billie F. Spencer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Manual visual inspection of civil infrastructure is high-risk, subjective, and time-consuming. The success of deep learning and the proliferation of low-cost consumer robots has spurred rapid growth in research and application of autonomous inspections. The major components of autonomous inspection include data acquisition, data processing, and decision making, which are usually studied independently. However, for robust real-world applicability, these three aspects of the overall process need to be addressed concurrently with end-to-end testing, incorporating scenarios such as variations in structure type, color, damage level, camera distance, view angle, lighting, etc. Developing real-world datasets that span all these scenarios is nearly impossible. In this paper, we propose a framework to create a virtual visual inspection testbed using 3D synthetic environments that can enable end-to-end testing of autonomous inspection strategies. To populate the 3D synthetic environment with virtual damaged buildings, we propose the use of a non-linear finite element model to inform the realistic and automated visual rendering of different damage types, the damage state, and the material textures of what are termed herein physics-based graphics models (PBGMs). To demonstrate the benefits of the autonomous inspection testbed, three experiments are conducted with models of earthquake damaged reinforced concrete buildings. First, we implement the proposed framework to generate a new large-scale annotated benchmark dataset for post-earthquake inspections of buildings termed QuakeCity. Second, we demonstrate the improved performance of deep learning models trained using the QuakeCity dataset for inference on real data. Finally, a comparison of deep learning-based damage state estimation for different data acquisition strategies is carried out. The results demonstrate the use of PBGMs as an effective testbed for the development and validation of strategies for autonomous vision-based inspections of civil infrastructure.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number532
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 1 2022


  • inspection testbeds
  • deep learning
  • computer graphics
  • autonomous inspections
  • physics-based graphics models physics-based graphics models
  • damage detection
  • Deep learning
  • Autonomous inspections
  • Damage detection
  • Physics-based graphics models
  • Computer graphics
  • Inspection testbeds

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Information Systems
  • Instrumentation
  • Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering
  • Biochemistry


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