Waymo vs. Uber Update

In the latest development regarding Google’s Waymo vs. Uber lawsuit lidar guru Anthony Levandowski has been fired by Uber. This comes after the judge ordered all documents in question be turned over and that Levandowski not work on anything involving lidar technology. Levandowski refused to turn over the files, invoking the fifth amendment.

Given the circumstances this move was a likely scenario. It will be interesting to see what comes next.


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Near Real Time Change Detection

A group of Canadian researchers have demonstrated the ability to monitor slopes in near real time with 3D laser scanning.

From the abstract:

We present an automated terrestrial laser scanning (ATLS) system with automatic near-real-time change detection processing. The ATLS system was tested on the Séchilienne landslide in France for a 6-week period with data collected at 30 min intervals. The purpose of developing the system was to fill the gap of high-temporal-resolution TLS monitoring studies of earth surface processes and to offer a cost-effective, light, portable alternative to ground-based interferometric synthetic aperture radar (GB-InSAR) deformation monitor-ing.

During the study, we detected the flux of talus, displacement of the landslide and pre-failure deformation of discrete rockfall events. Additionally, we found the ATLS system to be an effective tool in monitoring landslide and rockfall processes despite missing points due to poor atmospheric conditions or rainfall. Furthermore, such a system has the potential to help us better understand a wide variety of slope processes at high levels of temporal detail.


Posted in 3D Modeling, remote sensing, Research | 1 Comment

Scanse Sweep is Shipping

The low cost Scanse Sweep sensor is shipping. Early Kickstarter backers have begun to receive their units. Feedback has been very positive.

Scanse reports that the firmware, sdk and visualizer software continue to improve. They have already released some major updates, and the software is evolving every day.

From their email, “We are so excited to see the community take interest in the software development and we are working hard to incorporate valuable community contributions.”

They have also released a 3D DIY kit that transforms the Sweep into a 3D scanner.

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CyArk Update

John Ristevski is the new CEO and Chairman of CyArk. He assumes this role from industry icon Ben Kacyra, the founder of CyArk. Here are a few thoughts from a recent press release:

“Then in late 2016 I found my way back to CyArk – and found many things had changed. There were now hundreds of sites captured across all 7 continents. But the most exciting thing – there were now real possibilities to work with the data and share it with others in powerful ways. It is unlocking this value in the data that truly excites me. My interests have not changed throughout my career. Capturing data continues to outpace the ability to make sense of it and make it truly useful – and it is this untapped potential that CyArk has that I would like to explore. Making this data open to others for research and knowledge building, transforming it and making it useful in solving pressing conservation and preservation issues at sites, and presenting it in powerful and informative ways to share the wonder of these places and inspire.”

Good luck John and many thanks to Ben and Barbara.


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Lidar Whiz Kid

Solid state lidar is the direction all of the companies jockeying for position in the driverless car market are headed with the exception of Luminar Technologies. Led by a 22 – year old lidar whiz kid this start-up’s technology includes two mirrors and other moving parts that steer a single pencil of laser light around a scene so that a single photodetector can measure the distance to every detail.

“There’s nothing wrong with moving parts,” says Luminar founder and CEO Austin Russell. “There are a lot of moving parts in a car, and they last for 100,000 miles or more.”

He’s got a point there. The challenge is the cost. With $36 million in VC money and 160 employees some people are believers.


Posted in Autonomous vehicles, Sensors | Leave a comment

Basics of Lidar

The Wisconsin State Cartographers Office will be hosting a second offering of their “Basics of LiDAR” workshop. The workshop will extend over two full days, from 8:30 am to 4:00 pm, on June 12-13, 2017, at UW-Madison.

In this workshop, attendees will get hands-on experience manipulating LiDAR data using industry-standard Esri software. Attendees will gain a broad understanding of: raster data; map algebra and raster data processing; raster data structures; raster DEM characteristics including resolution; LiDAR acquisition and data collection concepts; accuracy and error in the context of LiDAR data; limitations of LiDAR; main LiDAR application domains; bare earth applications of LiDAR; terrain analysis; TINs, breaklines and contours; point clouds and LAS files; and visualization options. Attendees will also work with LAS files, using LASD to display data and create raster files and DEMs.

Registration is limited to 20.

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Fast Ground Filtering

A research team at Oregon State has developed a very fast ground filtering algorithm.

From the Abstract:

Ground filtering is a common procedure in lidar data processing, which separates the point cloud data into ground points and non-ground points. Effective ground filtering is helpful for subsequent procedures such as segmentation, classification, and modeling. Numerous ground filtering algorithms have been developed for Airborne Laser Scanning (ALS) data. However, many of these are error prone in application to TLS data because of its different angle of view and highly variable resolution. Further, many ground filtering techniques are limited in application within challenging topography and experience difficulty coping with some objects such as short vegetation, steep slopes, and so forth. Lastly, due to the large size of point cloud data, operations such as data traversing, multiple iterations, and neighbor searching significantly affect the computation efficiency. In order to overcome these challenges, we present an efficient ground filtering method for TLS data via a Scanline Density Analysis, which is very fast because it exploits the grid structure storing TLS data.

Could be of real value.

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Waymo vs. Uber Update

A quick update on the Waymo vs. Uber court case.

Last week Uber suffered a setback in their court case when the judge referred the case to the U.S. attorney for an investigation into the possible theft of trade secrets by an Uber executive.

In the ruling, Judge William Alsup said the case must stay in court and not go to a private arbitrator as Uber had wanted.

Waymo, Google’s autonomous car company, sued Uber earlier this year claiming that its former self-driving car expert — Anthony Levandowski — had stolen 14,000 files related to Google’s proprietary LiDAR technology before starting a company, Otto, which Uber bought last summer for $670 million US.

Judge Alsup also has issued a ruling, which remains under seal, on Waymo’s request for an injunction against Uber that would effectively halt its self-driving car testing program. This would be a stumbling block in Uber’s ambitions to develop fully autonomous vehicles.

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Riegl Automatic Registration 2.0

I had the opportunity today to receive a briefing on Riegl’s impressive Automatic Registration 2.0 software capability. First of all the software now comes loaded on the VZ400i. By making use of the on board digital compass, IMU and GNSS the automatic registration software eliminates the need for targets, if network control is not required. Without targets scan to scan accuracies of 2 to 5 mm are being observed.

If network control is required the need for targets is greatly reduced. For a project of 50 to 100 scans as few as 6 targets would be needed, thereby greatly reducing the need for equipment and the time to set up and retrieve the targets.

For highway projects maximum productivity can be realized by mounting the scanner on a vehicle using something like Certainty 3D’s TopoLift. In this configuration scan times can be held to 3 to 5 minutes which includes the high density scans, images and GNSS position. Registration takes 30 to 40 seconds per position.

The combined hardware and software results in a highly productive system that requires very little training and support since the expertise is built in to the software running on the scanner.

If you are looking for productivity and ROI you need to take a look at the VZ400i with automatic registration.

Posted in Sensors, Software, Technology | 1 Comment


The purpose of the OpenLSEF initiative is to create a common language describing how features in 3D point clouds should be defined. By establishing definitions and terminology, products from providers can be standardized, designers can expect consistency, self-driving cars can share high-definition maps and tool-makers can focus on ensuring extraction algorithms return expected results. It’s frustrating to be a drafter (or AI) trying to learn what curbs (or kerbs) look like if no one can agree whether flow line or back-of-curb is the defining feature.

OpenLSEF is a user-created initiative focusing on standardizing extraction definition in the AEC (architecture, engineering and construction) field, as well as transmission, utilities and BIM (building information management). These are living standards relating to the meaning of extracted data, as opposed to simply focusing on actual file format standards. As such, OpenLSEF is data-format agnostic and is meaningful whether you deal in DWG, DGN or SHP files.

This effort is certainly a step in the right direction.

Posted in 3D Modeling, Standards, The Industry | 3 Comments