Greetings, and welcome. Allow me to take the opportunity to introduce myself, explain what my background and interests are, and provide a little taste of what to expect from this space in the coming months. My main interest lies in the creation, management, and growth of technology-based ventures, especially those involving laser scanning or sophisticated software applications. I help convert a ideas or technologies still in the research or conceptual stage into viable product and service offerings.
My involvement with 3D imaging dates from the mid 1990’s, when various technologies began transitioning from the research stage to commercial uses. There were many hurdles to overcome, including: data collection inefficiency, equipment inaccuracy and unreliability, and a dearth of software tools. Recognizing the potential for laser scanning as an affordable measurement and virtualization tool, I joined a startup that ultimately became one of the largest providers of scanning, documentation and validation services. Back then, commercially available scanners were impracticably slow, so we built the first fleet of high-speed, 360 scanners for documenting large commercial and industrial areas; I contributed significantly to equipment design, production, testing and maintenance. Equally lacking at the time were products capable of handing the large amounts of dense, 3D information generated, so I led the development of cutting-edge software for visualization and information processing that could handle the data collected on even the largest projects. These award-winning commercial packages pioneered the usage of 3D imagery beyond simple point clouds and were among the first to integrate with CAD systems. Overall, the practical challenges inherent in executing large projects have always been a key focus. One such project (documenting a major US art museum), started in1999 and took over a year to complete. Today, a similar project could be finished in only a few weeks. It is important to note, however, that increasing throughput cannot come at the expense of data quality: a client’s trust can be quickly lost by a single mistake or quality lapse, and is difficult to regain. Therefore, integrity must be built-in through all phases of a project, from data collection to delivery. To this end I invented techniques for calibrating and field-validating laser scanners, developed a robust process that guaranteed high accuracy and verifiable performance, and innovated tools to ensure consistent, repeatable results and to minimize blunders.
Enough about me. What can you, the reader, expect from this column? The hardware, software, and services I helped develop have been used successfully in over a thousand projects, ranging from statue preservation to documentation of entire refineries. This voice of experience is useful for those of you just starting out in this field, and hopefully to many veterans as well. Second, though recent advances have made the technology more reliable and simpler, many good ideas are still waiting their turn. By bringing the possibilities to your attention perhaps together we can influence vendors towards meaningful improvements. Third, the division of laser scanning applications into market verticals such as mobile, industrial, architectural, etc. is a good sign for growth, but sometimes leads to uneven progress if communication is lacking. Reporting from a bird’s-eye view across verticals will help spur progress. Fourth, we’ll have some fun, gazing into my crystal ball to predict future business and technical trends beyond manufacturers’ published road maps. Finally, this isn’t my columnit’s yours. If there is a subject you’d like to hear about, drop me a line. As long as it’s on topic, I’ll do my best to accommodate. Laser scanning will continue to grow and develop in the coming years, and hopefully this column will help you enjoy the ride.