Geo Week News

May 5, 2011

The holy grail: Automated feature extraction

Revisiting a topic that was hot at SPAR in Houston, I’ve got a video interview with Tim Lowery, VP of business development at ClearEdge3D, which, along with companies like kubit and Aveva, was talking quite a bit at the show about automated feature extraction, essentially limiting the amount of work modelers have to do when they’re trying to take a point cloud and make it useful in a CAD environment. 

(In fact, here’s the interview I did with kubit on the subject.)

One of the concerns with any programs like these is the introduction of error: Does it take longer to fix what the software mistakenly modeled, or does it take longer to model without any software automation. Clearly, ClearEdge believes it’s the latter, saying that its software in a plant environment, where you’re modeling piping, can reduce modeling time anywhere from 35-75 percent (a big range, obviously, but it depends on the quality and resolution of the scan, on the complexity of the piping, on the skills of the modeler, etc.). 

The holy grail here, obviously, is that software solution of the future where you push a button and your point cloud magically turns into a perfect model of what you’ve scanned (it’s the holy grail because it will likely never actually become reality). There is also the argument that this need for feature extraction will disappear as point clouds become more high-resolution and people become more comfortable working directly in the point cloud. It may be that point clouds become working environments where you can introduce new objects and do clash-detection, etc., without ever having to switch to a CAD program of some sort. Time will tell.

Thus far, everyone’s been focusing on piping because it’s one of the easiest applications. Software is apparently good at finding smooth, round things. However, you’ll hear in the video about plans ClearEdge has for the next verticals they’ll tackle, as soon as Q1/Q2 of 2012.

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