At the SPAR International Conference today Kirk Knorr from Burns & McDonnell and Gregory Lawes of point3D gave a presentation about their experience using a handheld scanner from DotProduct LLC. This is a professional device intended for engineers and others working in the construction industry. It is basically a 7" Android tablet with a compact near infrared structured light and rgb 3D imaging system. It weighs less than a kilogram and is accurate for engineering purposes at distances up to 3.3 meters. It costs thousands of dollars, much less than the tens of thousands of dollars for terrestrial laser scanners.
To use it, you walk through or around the area of interest holding the scanner in your hand. It is particularly good at getting into spaces that a traditional tripod-mounted laser scanner can't see. Another major advantage is that the processing is done in near real-time on the Android tablet so that when you have finished scanning you have a point cloud on the tablet that you can visualize in 3D and verify that you've got everything you need before you leave the site. You can then download the point cloud from the DotProduct device to a laptop or other device running the same industry standard software for manipulating, analyzing measuring or visualizing the point cloud that you've always been using.
Kirk Knorr described how he successfully used the DotProduct device on a live engineering project. Another engineer from Bechtel reported that he had been using the device on live construction projects for a year and in his view the DotProduct and similar handheld devices are going to revolutionize how we do construction. He added that he foresees this happening very soon, within a year. Another engineer in the aerospace industry said that his company intended to get one of these devices into the hands of all of their technical staff.