Geo Week News

July 12, 2011

What is there for 3D pros at ESRI UC?

SPAR’s Tom Greaves is at the ESRI User Conference in San Diego right now, hot on the heels of the earthmine user meeting, and he’s working on more in-depth reports of what’s happening for 3D professionals in the ESRI ecosphere, but there are simply too many interesting tidbits coming out of the conference to leave all of the coverage until next week. 

First, there’s the big news that ESRI has made a somewhat rare acquisition, buying Procedural, a company out of Switzerland that makes pretty spectacular 3D models of cities. 

Read the full press release from ESRI on that here.

Why’d they make the buy? The official word is this: “Many GIS problems can only be solved in 3D, particularly in the area of urban development,” said Jack Dangermond, Esri president, making the announcement at Esri’s 2011 International User Conference. “Procedural’s unique capabilities for generating high-quality 3D data, using the same GIS data our users already have, makes them a perfect match for Esri.”

But I’m surely not the only one wondering if this isn’t some way of poking their noses into the Google SketchUp/123d worlds of creating 3D digital archives that can then be re-utilized in other ways (perhaps for an access fee). Also, when you look at the 3D data acquisition that partner earthmine is doing (see the interview I did with their co-CEO here), there’s a really good fit there. Yes, earthmine has a pretty good display engine of their own, but they can also supply great data to the Procedural display engine, I’m sure. 

Why do 3D data capture professionals care? I think first of all this just puts 3D’s benefits in front of a huge number of public employees who are already using ESRI and maybe haven’t thought a lot about 3D visualization and its uses. If nothing else, this is great marketing for 3D as an idea. But, also, even earthmine and Procedural will surely admit that there are ways to fit in more exacting data capture with their overall solutions. 

Once people get a taste of 3D, I think it’s pretty rare that they don’t want more and more of it, whether it be captured by laser scanners, photogrammetry, or designed from scratch.

Second, ESRI has announced that ArcGIS 10.1 will allow for lidar imagery in ArcMap, ArcScene, etc., bringing in LAS data and making it much more usable. For the run-down on the new features, see this blog post from the ESRI corporate site.

I’m sure someone is feeling the heat, however, for not getting this into beta in time for the User Conference. Can anyone think of a good reason why you’d put this into beta, oh, say, two weeks after all your customers go home from your big conference? Ouch. 

Regardless, it’s clear ESRI is reaching into the 3D community and offering more possibilities for people working in that space, or those who would like to get more ESRI users thinking about 3D and its benefits. Would have been great if they could have let some people play with it instead of just delineating what people will see at the end of July, but, hey, things happen. 

Finally, if you’re wishing you were at the show, but couldn’t make it, you’ve got to see ESRI’s video page, where they’ve already posted some of their plenary sessions. As someone who works a lot with posting and serving video, I’ve got to say that ESRI is really, really good at turning this stuff around. 

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