Geo Week News

April 1, 2013

Point cloud modeling: Art vs. science

During a training session I was conducting last week on modeling in Leica’s Cyclone, one of the participants suddenly exclaimed, “So, this is as much an art as it is science?!”

The answer, of course, is ‘yes.’ After the course, there were several side conversations and one eventually turned to the “art versus science” reality of point cloud modeling. The final question became, “How honest should we be about this to clients?”

As some of you may know I started my professional life as a musician. While in college I spent a lot of time talking about music business issues with various faculty members. The business of being a faculty member is keeping kids wanting to go to college from becoming musicians. Which, if you think about it, is a little odd. A degree in music guarantees you absolutely nothing. Add an education component to your curriculum and you get the closest thing to a guarantee – as you are now qualified to be a band director or choral director.

For those of you not in the know, there’s not a lot of money in teaching these days. So, what were the faculty making? There are way more kids majoring in music every year than there are job openings at schools, in orchestras, or for rock stars. The best answer I ever received was that their job was to produce high quality consumers of music. Nothing makes you appreciate the skill of a truly skilled musician than spending hours trying to perform on your own. Knowledgeable consumers patronize and reward the best musicians, more kids want to be the next “it” musician, and the whole cycle repeats itself.

It was this conversation that popped into my mind as I listened to the “how much do we tell the client” conversation. I think the more clients know, the more they will appreciate what we do. The more we simplify our actions, the more we devalue our skill set.

The rub here is that many of us stress the accuracy of the hardware.  For those that do, the idea of stressing the art – the subjective nature of modeling – to clients means risking losing the perceived upper hand in accuracy. The reality is that nothing could be further from the truth if you have a good modeler. Algorithms are getting better every day, but the reason there is still an art to modeling is because it cannot yet be fully automated. Why would we hide this from a client?

Handmade clothes are more valuable than machine-made. Hand-built automobiles are much more valuable than their assembly line cousins. We’re making Ferraris here people! I don’t see how convincing our clients that we’re making Suzukis is in anyone’s best interest.

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