Geo Week News

August 8, 2012

Looking back at the Esri User Conference

With a couple of weeks to decompress, I thought it would be a good idea to try to round-up all of the many and varied news pieces related to lidar and 3D data capture that came out of the Esri User Conference this year in San Diego. While I didn’t attend myself, we did have our conference programmer, Linda McLaughlin, in attendance, scouting for great speakers who can bridge the gap between GIS and robust 3D data capture, realizing the promise of what’s being called 4D GIS in some circles. 

By all accounts, there was more 3D at Esri than ever before. More sessions with 3D in the title, more attendees coming up to the booth to talk about how the end users of the data are looking for 3D deliverables, and more releases from partner software firms touting their abilities with 3D data. 

Linda mentioned that the topics most resonating with the people at the event were airborne lidar (obviously, I guess), but especially that data that could be gathered via UAVs, and, somewhat surprisingly, the Kinect, if only on a personal-interest level.

With all of that said, here are some stories and reports that came out of the event that may interest you:

• Maybe most interesting is this video report from Glen Lethem at where he interviews Optech’s North American sales head Jim Green. In the video, Green announces a new partnership with Esri to integrate airborne and mobile mapping systems with the new ArcGIS 10.1 software. I can’t find any other report of this partnership, so Green and Lethem would appear to be breaking news here. Take a look:


• Safe Software released an update to its ArcGIS data interoperability extension that will help take advantage of 10.1’s new support of lidar. GeoPlace has a great interview with COO Dale Lutz on how lidar can be leveraged with the new software capabilities.

• For those of you who were interested in the Survey Summit, which acted as ACSM’s annual meeting, Eric Gakstatter has a great write-up over at Geospatial Solutions. He also picks up on the UAV interest, along with the opportunities potentially offered by 3D rendering technology like that provided by Esri acquisition Procedural. And, yes, the cloud. I personally think bandwidth and file-size issues will hold back huge adoption of 3D GIS in the cloud for the foreseeable future, but that’s obviously where everything is headed at some point. 

• Directions Magazine’s Adena Schutzberg has some good takeaways from Esri UC 2012, but she doesn’t seem to have been overwhelmed by 3D, as she makes near zero mention of data capture or 3D in her write up

• Perhaps the best perspective is provided by Michael Frecks, who, as CEO of Terrametrix, is obviously intimately involved in mobile and terrestrial scanning. He notes that GIS and surveying seem to be miles apart, and as scanning is still largely seen as a surveyor’s tool, perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising that lidar and laser scanning has yet to really penetrate the GIS world, other than early adopters. We keep hearing about how mobile scanning should be great for populating GIS, but the hard evidence of that frequently happening is slim. Perhaps this will change as more and more users upgrade to 10.1 and have native support for lidar built into the software they’re using every day. 

• Finally, coinciding with our article this week on volumetric display, Infinite Z made some buzz at the User Conference with their demonstration of zSpace, a “virtual-holographic” digital platform. Here’s the press release about what they were up to. Most importantly, they teamed with partners in the 3D GIS space to show how you might go about using the technology. This certainly sounds promising: “In its Zephyr simulator, TerraEchos partners with Infinite Z to demonstrate the ability to visualize streaming complex objects moving in three dimensional space without the normal performance and rendering limitations associated with true 3D-geospatial visualization.” As does this:

“Sanborn’s GEOINT Intelligence Programs believes zSpace will enhance the analytic experience for mission visualization of high resolution city 3D modeling, planning tactics and preparedness,” said Jessica King, vice president of intelligence programs at the Sanborn Mapping Company.

I’ll keep looking around for more on-the-ground coverage of the Esri event, and I’m sure there are more relevant product releases, but, all-in-all, it seems like significant steps toward integration with 3D data capture are being made, but there is still some significant steps that need to be made to bring the two communities together.

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