The ghost of lidar future
2/14/2013 10:00:08 AM
One thing that came home to me this week is the increasingly global nature of the 3D scan data ecosystem. And with that globalisation, it naturally follows that innovative services are springing up outside of, as well as within, the more established markets of Europe, Australia, Japan and North America.
In South Africa, for instance, Ergotech, a division of the state-owned armaments company Armscor, has been using point clouds to help ensure standard issue footwear fits the female soldiers of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF), reports iolNews. Armscor's annual report notes that the shoe is "based on the anthropometry of SANDF females as obtained through 3D laser scanning and multivariate statistical analysis techniques." However, not everyone is enamoured of the results: South African parliamentarian David Maynier, who attended a meeting of the country's Defence Portfolio Committee at which the shoe was unveiled, criticising both the cost of the project and the drab appearance of the resulting product, says iolNews.
In India, another novel means of putting laser scanning to use is also raising concerns relating to cost and utility, reports the Deccan Chronicle. The country's Central Empowered Committee (CEC) - a powerful legal body constituted by the Supreme Court - has ordered that lidar be used to resolve a dispute over illegal mining of iron ore in Karnataka province, where 63 leaseholders are accused of mining outside sanctioned areas.
The appointed survey team is set to borrow terrestrial laser scanning equipment from the Singareni Collieries Company Limited, a coal mine in Andhra Pradesh - equipment that has previously been used to resolve similar cases of illegal mining in India.
Unsurprisingly, concession-holders and miners affected by the decision are crying foul. A report from another local news source quotes the southern regional chairman of the Federation of Indian Mineral Industries (FIMI), a lobby group for mining interests, as saying, "We are not opposed to the laser survey, but it will be time-consuming and delay the recovery of the iron ore sector in the state.”
The ghost of lidar future
Cost is often cited as a reason NOT to scan, but it is well known that the costs of laser scanning are on a downward trajectory, even as the quality and usefulness of the data obtained rises. And a new 3D scan technology currently being worked on in another developing market - China - promises even more remarkable gains. Quantum physicists at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Shanghai have published a paper about their research into so-called "ghost imaging," a technique for measuring the intensity of reflected light that would allow data to be collected from the entire field-of-view all at once, rather than point-by-point, even with moving objects. The image accompanying this story shows two images of a building located some 1.2 km away. The one on the left is the field-of-view taken with a telescope, the one on the right the field-of-view obtained by 3D ghost imaging.
The path from academic proof-of-concept to a commercial product is littered with good intentions. Nevertheless, the scientists' paper (which you can download here) should be required reading for anyone interested in the future of laser scanning. If it lives up to its potential, ghost imaging will be to lidar as photography is to drawing: in other words, a completely revolutionary - and much faster - way of capturing and representing the world. Interesting times, indeed.