Where Will 3D LS Rank?

  1. We were trying to come up with the top 5 high tech developments since 1980 on the ride home.
  2. The PC, Internet, cell phone and GPS were 1 – 4. We could not agree on 5.
  3. Some say laser scanning will be bigger than GPS, but can it make it into the consumer world?


On the ride home from my much too short vacation I was playing a little game with my children. Our attention had been on the new GPS car navigation device that my daughter had just purchased for the trip, and how well it had performed, even on the back roads of the Adirondacks. It was sending us on the “short cuts” that my brother had only found out about after 10 years of traveling in that area.

I asked the group for the top 5 high tech developments since 1980. Of course the Internet and the PC were the top 2 in reverse order. We then went with the cell phone and GPS as 3 and 4. We actually did not come up with a clear winner for the 5 spot.

My question is where do you think 3D laser scanning is going to rank as time goes on. I have heard a number of people say that it will be bigger than GPS, which I do tend to agree with from a technical/surveying application perspective.

But I am not sure about the potential impact of laser scanning in the consumer market. Without that there is no hope of it making the top 5. If you include the medical field, such as dentistry, and/or expand the definition to include all of the 3D imaging applications it will get closer, but knowing the technical background of GPS and seeing how the awesome power of this technology has been commercialized is truly amazing. It is a tribute to all those entrepreneurs who had the vision to create these applications.

There are some applications that have the potential to go mainstream, such as collision avoidance, but it does not seem as obvious as needing directions. Those who do come up with a consumer app just might hit a homer.

Any ideas?

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6 Responses to Where Will 3D LS Rank?

  1. Gene – excellent question but even though my livihood is based on laser scanner, I don’t see how it could become bigger or more important to the basic consumer as GPS. For one – LS tends to be non-recurring in that once something is scanned, until it changes you don’t need to rescan it. I do agree that when you dial in all the medical applications and potential consumer entertainment uses that LS will grow and be more important but hard to imagine as important as the other items on your list.

    But let’s keep growing it and perhaps it will surprise us all. I know I’m trying real hard to make this happen. And I sure do appreciate your efforts too!


  2. D. H. Smith says:

    Like Michael, my livelihood is also based on laser scanning, however I differ in opinion that I can see it becoming even bigger than GPS. Currently, any architectural and engineering project worth its salt requires laser scanning and 3D/4D (3D over time) modeling. Laser scanning of US government buildings incorporated into BIM (building information modeling)is becoming “the” standard. I see a future where the laser scanner will become like a digital camera where people can take 3D photos. I think GPS is the perfect analogy in that 15 years ago just a handful of people used it, let alone knew about it; now it is ubiquitous.

  3. Michael, think about it on a larger term. Laser scanners or a hybrid will almost certainly replace or augment television cameras at sports events. Ever want to see the game from anywhere in the stadium, or even on the field? 3D lasers are the only way.

  4. csnoke says:

    Yet another area that laser scanners could be used is as a prosthesis. Provided distance feedback to the blind, it wouldn’t effect everyone but it would be life changing for a lot of people.

  5. Hi Richard – great ideas but in my view these solutions won’t use laser scanners as we know them today. Solutions for these applications will be more aligned to todays video imaging devices (cameras) than laser scanners. We are already using regular SLR cameras and industrial video cameras today to perform 3D “imaging” (vs. 3D “scanning”). I am very encouraged by these new technologies and we’re looking for the best apps for them now. With improvements in the CCD arrays and processors, we will see image-based systems replace laser-based scanners – even for the industrial apps we use them for today.

  6. Martin Flood says:

    For #5, as a consumer technolgy, I would go with digital imagery/cameras (incluidng still and video images). Fundamentally changed how we record our lives and leave a record of who we, as individuals and as a society, were. Combined with #3 on yor list (cell phones) has made everybody an “honest” observer of their times.

    I also tend to agree with the comment that laser scanning by itself wont break in to this list, but combined with digital imagery – essentially 3d photography – or other imaging systems (collision avoidance in automated vehicles) it will eventually be as ubiquetous as cell phones and GPS devices.

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