I have just experienced two remarkable days at the Spar 3D Expo and Conference in The Woodlands, Texas, in itself a remarkable location near Houston. I will blog in more detail in the near future about the things and people I had the opportunity to experience over the past two days.
First of all, virtual reality. Everyone is aware of the Oculus Rift (see the new review at CNET if you aren't). There are other technologies that have come or are coming from Samsung, Sony and Google. But at SPAR 3D the most remarkable VR technology I personally experienced was what David Smith, CTO of Wearaility, talked about and allowed me and others to try - a set of incredibly light-weight glasses with acrylic lenses designed to work with a smartphone that gives you a virtual experience comparable to IMAX without the IMAX theatre. I tried it and found it an absolutely amazing surround experience. And if you have wondered where Michael Jones, of Keyhole and Google Maps fame, has landed, he is now CEO of Wearality.
Secondly, my personal passion is the geolocation of underground utilities. At SPAR 3D Mark Klusza, Founder & CTO, Real-time Metrology, Inc. described a major new advance in ground penetrating radar (GPR) technology he has developed that can detect a 3/4 inch rebar (among other things) four feet below the surface in clay.
For existing buildings creating a BIM model remains an art rather than science. But at SPAR 3D a number of new technologies were presented that can help automate, improve the quality, and speed the process. Foremost among them in my mind was presented by Nicolas Arnold, VP of Product Development, at SKUR. With SKUR's technology, which runs in the cloud, you can compare the 3D model that you have developed with the point cloud you derived the model from and identify all the points of significant variance. The same technology can also be used during a construction project to compare what has been built to what was designed - even when the building is only partially completed.
Ron Singh, Engineering Automation Manager/Chief of Surveys, Oregon Department of Transportation (DoT) described progress on his remarkable vision of how automation is upending how we design, build and monitor, operate and maintain U.S. highway systems. Richard Arrowsmith, Asset Information Group Team Leader, Highways England described the digital model of the English highway system. Stan Burns, President, Integrated Inventory, who has just retired from Utah DoT, described Utah DoT's comprehensive database of every piece of highway furniture and signage in the Utah highway system. Together these represent the future of the digitalization of national highway systems.
A new company, Indoor Reality, is the third startup of Dr Avideh Zakhor, who is on leave from the University of California Berkeley. Her new device is a backpack loaded with sensors including lasers and infrared that enables you to map the interior of buildings by simply walking through a multi-floor building, including up and down stairs. The resulting data can be used to automatically generate floor plans and 3D models and captures everything you need for an Energy Plus analysis.
Mark Shell and Darrell Gadberry, both of the City of Fort Worth Water Department, described a very versatile device with laser and sonar and camera devices on board that can be used for sewer line inspections of small and large diameter sewer pipes. Fundamentally this device enables condition-based maintenance of municipal sewer systems. Mark and Darrell reported that it has saved the Fort Worth Water Department $42 million.
I was able to interview Dr Avideh Zakhor, Nicolas Arnold, Ron Singh, Larry Kleinkemper of Lanmar Services who specialize in creating BIM models for existing buildings, and Greg Bentley of Bentley who has a broad, forward-looking perspective on the "digitalization" of infrastructure.