The Point Cloud – Friend or Foe?

  1. Laser scanners are dumb – they produce far too many points.
  2. Intelisum uses the point cloud to produce a more useful digital image.
  3. Quantapoint produces Laser Models from the point clouds.

Laser scanners are dumb. Instead of obtaining the minimum required measurement information, they blast the scene with an array of points that is overkill in nearly every situation. And the current trend is in  the direction of collecting more points as scanners get faster – not less. This creates significant data handling problems, especially for the existing CAD and GIS software environments that need this 3D input.

In the short range metrology world point clouds have been eliminated from the work flow. These scanners output surface meshes rather than discrete points. These meshes can then be used to develop a nurbs surface, which can then be more easily integrated into the current 3D design environments.

In a recent conversation with Stan Coleby from Intelisum he explained that by incorporating a digital camera with a laser scanner, they have developed a system that uses the scanner output to effectively develop a highly accurate digital image. The georeferenced image can then be used to extract the key points of interest. As an example, he stated that a major interstate highway interchange might result in 3,000 to 5,000 points being entered into the highway design software using his patented technology.  This is a far cry from the tens of millions of points that would be in the corresponding point cloud.

Quantapoint promotes a somewhat similar approach to point clouds. Rather than providing their customers with the ability to access the raw point data they provide what they term high definition Laser Models and photo-realistic Laser Images derived from the point clouds. These are much smaller in size and can be easily incorporated into the leading CAD design packages.

The automobile design world has been using laser scanners for over 10 years. They refuse to even discuss the use of point clouds. I think they are trying to tell us something.


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