Guest Editorial: SPAR 2012 Recap

A 214Kb PDF of this article as it appeared in the magazine—complete with images—is available by clicking HERE

As they say, everything is bigger and better in Texas and SPAR 2012 was no exception. With a theme of "End-to-End 3D", 850 participants were educated by 60 exhibitors and 100 presenters over three and a half days. The conference program had 5 tracks–Industrial Facilities, Civil Transportation & Building, New Technologies, Security Planning & Law Enforcement, and Digital Historic Preservation; now if they only had cloning software…

Lisa Murray, the Director of SPAR International, opened things up by noting that the growth of the event is a testament to the growing use of 3D technology, enabling people to work better, faster, safer and smarter. "Attendance is up by more than 100 people over last year," said Murray. "There’s a real excitement about 3D technology and SPAR is at the heart of it."

The keynotes were quite an interesting mix of technologies. Dr. Phil Manning, Head of Palaeontology Research Group, University of Manchester discussed the use of laser scanning to study fossils and Abe Reichental, President and CEO, 3D Systems Corporation explained how 3D laser printing has the potential to change the way even food is produced. Lawrie Jordan, Director of Imagery at Esri, talked about bringing multi-sensor point information beyond 3D and into the cloud. Esri is investing heavily in supporting point clouds. Given the data management issues associated with integrating point clouds into daily workflows, Esri may become one of the more important players in the future.

In the exhibit area, MDL, an UK-based company that I would have labelled as a niche player mainly in the mining segment, is emerging as one of the best kept secrets in the industry. At the show they announced the HD100 mobile laser scanning system, a USB-powered laser that includes their Dynascan sensor and a Faro Focus phase scanner that is removable so you can use it for static projects. With a price point of $150k this has the potential to break down the cost barriers to mobile in a big way.

Speaking of mobile, I think the real hardware innovation is now taking place on the indoor mobile front. The folks at CSIRO in Australia have a very interesting handheld unit; there are back pack systems being developed at the University of Houston and UC Berkeley; and mobile carts from Applanix and Allpoint Systems. It will be very interesting to see where these prototypes are in a year.

Bentley Systems announced that Descartes, their image processing software for Microstation, will now support point clouds. This is the technology they acquired from Pointools last year. In addition, they also announced that they are supporting point cloud data management through ProjectWise. This could be a powerful combination, especially with TopoDOT running in Microstation.

Two of the more important sessions according to many people that I spoke with included a presentation on the use of photogrammetry to capture 3D information and one titled "Open Source 3D", where the PCL–Point Cloud Library–project was discussed. With more than 300 programmers working on this effort it is most likely the largest team working on point cloud software anywhere in the world. "Next Generation Photogrammetry" had attendees questioning how much accuracy they really need and whether the use of photogrammetry, in certain situations, could be sufficient.

The next SPAR International will take place April 15­18, 2013 at The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, Colorado. It may not be Texas, but I bet it will be bigger and better than SPAR 2012.

Gene Roe is the editor and co-founder of LiDAR News/Blog/Magazine.

A 214Kb PDF of this article as it appeared in the magazine—complete with images—is available by clicking HERE