First, watch this video. It was produced by Autodesk Labs, and it identifies seven industry trends Autodesk is responding to with their latest software developments. Kind of like a tech presentation as created by the people at PBS, it’s surprisingly watchable for the nine minutes it goes on, although you may want to skip the first two minutes or so.
Okay, it’s not like these trends are revelatory. If you’ve been paying attention, they seem to make sense. But there’s some cool stuff in the seriousness with which Autodesk is taking them and the way they interact with 3D imaging.
Human-centered Design: This is huge. In order for 3D to really take off, it’s imperative that users be able to easily work with the data that service providers give to them. Point clouds need to be something users can play with. Models need to be easily understood. The computing surrounding 3D data capture and display needs to be much more intuitive.
Analog Moving to Digital – So, this can be a little scary, right? You laser scanner makers and operators would be in trouble if this whole modeling-from-photographs thing can supply the same kind of geo-referenced data and accuracy that laser scanning can. Thankfully, I don’t think that’s possible in the near term. However, this does get people used to the idea of capturing reality for use in 3D modeling, and I think that can only be a good thing. PhotoFly seems to me to be a very exciting development for the 3D imaging marketplace.
Even more important, though, is shape extraction for AutoCAD. Converting the point cloud into geometric shapes is absolutely crucial for reducing the amount of back-office processing involved with laser scanning. Sure, you can bill for it. But that doesn’t mean the end user wants to pay for it.
Cloud Data and Search – Who here is working with “large amounts of data”? Who here has a good plan for storing and organizing all of it? Ha. Don’t lie. This is crucial to efficient workflow, but too few professionals who come into computing from the back door are versed in storage and organization best practices. A little help with this would be great.
Cloud Computing – This is a great point: “running one computer for 200 minutes is the same basic cost of renting 200 computers for a minute. Why wait?” Good question!This Project Neon service that renders while you go work somewhere else seems pretty brilliant, no?
Digital Reality – The point about cost is very important. If a realistic picture is just as good as the real thing, why create the real thing? Not great for set designers, but definitely good for people capturing and manipulating reality.
Digital to Analog – I’m sorry, but I’m surprised there isn’t more hype around 3D printers. I know you surveyors and asset managers don’t care much, but this stuff is cool as hell. Manufacturing on demand? Desktop manufacturing? Just typing those words is pretty cool. And I love this idea of “x-ray vision,” where CAD maps are overlaid on reality. Seems like that could be helpful to inspectors, right off the bat, when they’re working in commercial real estate. Where have the additions been made? What’s been documented and what hasn’t? There’s money to be made there.
And, finally, SaaS – Real-time mark-up of point clouds through your browser? I’m guessing asset owners would like that. You could give a pretty nice presentation, showing what you’ve found in the point cloud and what your next step is, all without leaving your desk or using anything more than a browser. The end user doesn’t need to install anything. He can be on a boat on the Atlantic if his satellite reception is good enough.
Anyway, a great quick look at what Autodesk sees as important going forward. I’m tending to agree with them.