Scratch the surface of the 3D data acquisition industry and
you soon realise it's not just one surface, rather it's a mesh of related
industries as dense as a point cloud. The sheer diversity of new 3D products
and applications on show earlier this month at SPAR Europe
illustrates this well - all part of the same sector, yet each targeting a
specific niche, from laser scanning in the harsh conditions of a gassy mine
to providing an immersive 3D environment for geologists to plan fieldwork, the variety is almost endless.
Thus, when I caught the Tuesday afternoon session on New 3D
Technologies and Applications, it ran the gamut from the
photogrammetric 'gigatextures' of xRez Studio
to Mantis Vision's handheld
scanners, via the point cloud CAD add-ons of Lithuania's InfoEra.
InfoEra's Undet point cloud processing software.
As co-founder Egidijus Zilinskas explained, the latter
company has developed point cloud processing software called Undet, that works
with AutoCAD to increase 2D drafting and 3D modelling productivity at an
A significantly higher price tag (the figure of 60,000 euros
was mentioned) is attached to the handheld scanners developed by Israel's
Mantis Vision 3D Technology. VP Shabtay Negry spoke about the company's F5 3D
handheld camera at SPAR Europe 2010, describing it as a breakthrough technology designed for
field use in dynamic scenes by non-experts, whose active triangulation provokes
sub mm accuracy at a range of less than 1 m. Use and acceptance of the product is
growing he said: "We have customers in Sweden, Netherlands, Japan and
Australia," noted Negry. Further developments are also in the pipeline:
"We are working on bringing to market a wide angle field-of-view
product," said Negry. This could be used for mapping large environments,
such as crime scene objects and specified areas. "In six to seven months
we will have a short range system with embedded color," he added.
Multiple camera synchronisation has been successfully
demonstrated. Mantis Vision is also working on increasing scanning range, from
4.5 m at present to "maybe 10-15 m," said Negry. Another aim is
"capturing static and dynamic data to process together."
According to Negry, the uniqueness of Mantis Vision's active
triangulation is the flexibility of the coding, which means you can extend the
number of characters and therefore the resolution. "You can have 50,000
coordinates on a single plane - we would like to go up to 500,000 … We are going
to increase the resolution by a factor of five to 10 more," he added.
That would make an already impressive piece of technology
even more so, but when it comes to high resolution 3D, the photogrammetric
gigapixel textures of Greg Downing and his company xRez Studio really take the
cake (fittingly the company name is short for 'extreme resolution'). Downing,
who has a background in visual effects for feature films started xRez with a
partner about six years. What the company has come to specialize in are
so-called 'gigatextures': gigapixel photographs overlaid onto 3D digital
terrain models. "We do a lot of work in natural science and cultural
heritage," explained Downing. He then proceeded to tell the fascinating
story of how xRez got asked to produce a gigapixel image of Yosemite National
Park in the US to help the park's geologist work out where are the most
dangerous places for rockfalls. Unfortunately, the park had no budget for this,
so xRez came up with the idea of getting their friends to help: "The only
way we could do something this ambitious was to crowdsource it," said
Downing. So, with support from Microsoft Live Labs and Google and the help of
20 photographic teams with Gigapans (shooting 10,000 images/hr), they were able
to photograph the entire park from 20 locations and generate a final image
approximately 300,000 pixels wide.
xRez was also able to use a 1 m resolution aerial lidar
model (captured thanks to the one daily hang glider flight allowed by the park
authorities) and overlay the gigapixel photo onto the 3D digital terrain model.
As well as providing a beautiful, easily searchable visual record of the park,
the gigapixel image enabled the park's geologist to assess the possibility of
rockfalls near Curry Village, leading to the relocation away from danger of 300
campsites. "The park's search and rescue team is also excited by the
possibilities of the gigapixel photo," added Downing. (You can see the
complete 45 gigapixel online and read more about the Yosemite Extreme Panoramic
Imaging Project here).
Here's another example of the firm's work, this time with Glacier Works, a non-profit organization that uses art, science and adventure to raise public awareness and encourage mitigation of the consequences of climate change:
Khumbu Glacier Approach from xRez Studio on Vimeo.
I guess what this cornucopia of applications and services
shows is that it's not about the point cloud so much as it's about the point.
(Or, in other words, what are you using the data for?). As Dr. Ivo Milev
reminded everyone during the Mobile Scanning for Railways session: "A
point cloud is a measurement, not a product." Amen to that.