Geo Week News

October 21, 2008

Serving up a billion points of light in AutoCAD

In anticipation of its beta release, Pointools recently demoed its AutoCAD plug-in at Intergeo and posted a video on YouTube. Powered by the Pointools Vortex engine, the plug-in enables users to display point clouds up to a billion points in AutoCAD 2006-2009, according to Director Faraz Ravi. “The display system is already working and is very fast and displays every point with no reduction,” he says.

Currently named Pointools Model, the plug-in serves as both a drawing solution and a modeling solution. “It takes a look at how a user sets up AutoCAD and adapts to it,” Ravi says. “If you’ve got a graphics card and you’ve got hardware acceleration enabled within AutoCAD, then it will use that. If you’ve got software renderings set up—a software driver—you will adapt accordingly.” Ravi says you won’t get quite the same performance, but it will do the best it can.

Stripping concerns about registration, clash detection or meshing, the strength of the offering appears to lie in its ability to handle complete data sets up to a billion points without chopping them up—and to do it with great speed. The plug-in, Ravi says, “has the ability to work with huge point clouds within AutoCAD at interactive rates and without staring at an hourglass. As you zoom in, you’re never in a situation where you think you might not be looking at all the data or if something is missing (requiring regen time). No existing tool is remotely comparable to our solution for speed of volumes of data that can be handled with AutoCAD.”

Ravi is equally excited about the solution’s shading capabilities, which are designed to capture as much clarity as possible. Pointools Model performs RGB, intensity, lighting and height shading. “One of the unique things we do is allow the user to blend all those different ways of viewing the data,” Ravi says. “You could have your intensity modulating the shading on the façade, so if you’ve got to change your materials, you change your material in the intensity.”

Target users for the plug-in are surveyors who produce linework and perform topo surveys. Ravi says the product has a future in the process industry for plant modeling but notes that there are no automated features for that right now. The plug-in will accept pre-registered data from any manufacturer.

In response to the Ambercore announcement last month in which Ambercore software is planned to be incorporated into future releases of Autodesk products, Ravi says he doesn’t expect to see much happen for at least a year and that in the meantime, users with pre-2010 versions will have the Pointools solution as an option. He adds that his team understands how users go through the drawing and modeling process and has responded to those needs for four years running.

Beta testing of Pointools Model will be free and nonrestricted for one month, a new development model for the company. “What we’d like to do is let people get a sense of how quickly it is to work with it without investing any cash,” Ravi says, adding that he expects the full version to be available by the beginning of next year. The price of the production version will be £950 / $1650

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