We are almost on the Eve of SPAR 3D Expo beginning April 11, 2016. This is a vendor-neutral 3D imaging conference that has been running annually since 2004, one that I always look forward to. What makes this event so attractive is the diversity of technologies on display combined with the efforts of the SPAR 3D team to encourage end-users and practitioners to participate and share their experiences.
For many vendors in our industry, SPAR 3D represents a key milestone in their sales plan for the year. The pre-SPAR wave of press releases and announcements have been of particular interest. I have been interested to identify any trends for the year and any themes that continue to grow and mature from last year.
(Before you read further, I should declare that I am actively involved in the business operations of two vendors who will be mentioned (Arithmetica and NCTech Imaging), hopefully it will become clear as to how they fit with the themes discussed.)
Dynamic and fit-for-purpose imaging
Over the years we have seen hardware trends that have taken us from static to mobile, more recently airborne to UAV, mobile outdoor to mobile indoor. Now we see what I will term as ‘static to dynamic imaging’ and ‘high-specification 3D imaging to fit-for-purpose imaging’. At SPAR3D 2015 we saw strong showings from both DotProduct and GeoSLAM. Both offer their own takes on tools that enable the rapid capture of structured imaging information as personnel move through a facility. I think that we can also expect both to make a big impact on this year’s event.
Undoubtedly, GeoSLAM will be showing their new ZEB-REVO that, from initial acclaim, appears to offer an improvement in the clarity of data produced. Also exhibiting will be Viametris–and I hope they will also be showing their hand-held scanner, the IMS-2D that many of us first saw at last year’s Intergeo. I dare say that we will also see mapping backpacks in action too.
As yet, none of these systems provide the relative accuracies that we are familiar with when using our traditional tripod-mounted laser scanners that are designed for the survey community. What they do provide, though, is speed, ease of use, economies of workflow and data that is good-enough. Typically, these systems are highly portable and deployable, can be operated by one person and can cut a data collect that would usually take hours down to minutes. For an asset manager trying to validate the dimensions of an instrumentation room that needs to be renovated, or if there are going to be conflicts when moving machinery from one side of a facility to another; relevant measurement data can potentially be collected without needing to bring in a specialist survey crew.
Tools and analytics
Perhaps it is due to the resurgence in UAVs, but this community that has been excited about scanning technologies for so long is starting to remember the value that there is in photographic images too.
NCTech Imaging’s iSTAR 360 imaging system is now well established, enabling high-quality panoramic camera images to be easily captured for virtual tours or to improve the efficiency of projects that produce colourized laser scans. At SPAR 3D this year, NCTech has announced that it has developed a new software development kit (SDK) for measurement that “enables iSTAR users to take measurements from directly within a spherical image by combining a ‘stereo pair’ of iSTAR images”. Casting our mind back to the facilities manager needing to quickly validate what is known about a site, where laser scanned specifications are not required, reasonably accurate point-to-point measurements will be possible from within iSTAR panoramic images.
Also revisiting the value of regular photos for 3D reality capture are Bentley and their ContextCapture product line. While creating meshes from aerial images that represent digital elevation models might be ‘old hat’ to many of us; personally, I am excited to see the types of products that ContextCapture produces from terrestrial images such as the smartphone that a construction site’s Site Superintendent carries around in their pocket.
Given the proliferation of data capture devices that we have, a frequent topic in my writing is to encourage processes for quickly moving information from what is often complex and agnostic 3D imaging data into the workflows where our clients really need it. At SPAR3D 2016, Arithmetica will be launching Pointfuse V2. With the intent to enable designers and engineers to start their projects on the vector data structures that they are most familiar with rather than needing to interpret the original point cloud; Pointfuse V2 is a one-button data conversion tool for converting a 3D point cloud to a 3D vector model that can be easily manipulated in the software of the end-user’s choice.
Finally, an exhibitor who I am particularly looking forward to seeing for the first time at SPAR3D is SKUR. Point-in-polygon or point-to-point change detection is not new, but building these techniques to give domain specific information is. In an industry where we so often get excited by the capture technology first, what I like about the SKUR proposition is that it approaches the problem of defining the metrics and reporting deliverables first, before dropping in the 3D imaging analysis capabilities as a means to getting the results needed.
Focusing on information and decisions
A trend that we have seen over recent years is that rather than being blown-away by the details seen in a point cloud, we are focusing more on who can make the most the information that those details represent. 3D imaging technology has become increasingly mainstream since the first SPAR3D Expo, but perhaps it will only be mainstream once we all just talk about the distance between the two large generators on the factory floor, rather than how well we see the edges of those generators in the point cloud? I wonder if these are the types of conversations that we will see at SPAR 3D this year?
Looking forward to seeing colleagues from across North America and around the World in Texas next week. Please stop me to say “Hi” if you are there too.