Revolutionary seemed to be the theme for this year’s SPAR International, which took place in Houston the first week of April.

Andy Lowery, DAQRI CEO, gave an interesting keynote on technology in the information age. He mentioned his speech wouldn’t focus on his own company specifically, but highlight current innovations and the state of the technology revolution we are living in.  At the start of his presentation, titled “Sensing Change: To the Cloud(s) and Beyond,” he said, “We are on the cusp of something a lot bigger than what DAQRI has to offer.

“Someone told me we’re at the end of the beginning of the information age. I want to talk about how we can invigorate and accelerate some of the technologies and framework.”

He talked about augmented reality, saying it’s the merging of digital and real world. Lowery also compared the crowd in the room to innovators listening to Thomas Edison speak about electricity 100 years ago, saying attendees are revolutionaries in technology. He compared the revolution we’re seeing today to the industrial renaissance, saying the birth of augmented reality is like the introduction of electricity for factories.

“Now every factory worker could be a skilled professional that could work with power tools… What it led to was the advent of high school education. Mandatory high school education came about as a result of this new distribution of power.”

The revolution going on today “is distribution of information,” Lowery said. “The parallel is that our factories and facilities currently have a very centralized information system, much as the steam engine operated as a centralized power system. You have a centralized control area … that all the information is networked and fed into. It becomes a hub where decisions are made and then redistributed to people out in the field.”

Augmented reality allows facilities to “skip the control room and distribute the information, and even distribute the ability to control the machines, or make decisions in a more distributed way,” he said.

“So what we’re talking about on a universal level is the internet of things,” Lowery said. “The internet of things is an often overused word that people apply to everything that’s coming out nowadays, but in reference to what we’re talking about this week we’re talking about the application of the internet of things to be industrial framework.

“There’s a lot of different things people call this, but we can boil it down to three easy words: the connectivity between machines, data and people.”

Lowery used a study by Iowa State University and Boeing as an example to describe how augmented reality is changing how people work. In the study, groups of 50 students constructed an aircraft wing. One group had the information on a computer. Another had tablets with instructions on using augmented reality to build the wing. None of the students had used augmented reality before. “Those are 3D models that already exist for the wing,” Lowery said. “The models would actually animate and say, okay, here’s the next step.”

The first group was done in about 45 minutes. The augmented reality group performed the work about 30-percent faster. “But the absolutely remarkable statistic, the one that we should be focused on right now, is the virtual elimination of human error,” Lowery said. The average number of errors was seven for those using the computer versus one half an error for the students using augmented reality.

“The second time they built that aircraft wing, not a single student made a single error,” Lowery said. Now that’s a strong case for augmented reality.

Technology Introduced at SPAR

In addition to the keynotes and variety of informative sessions offered this year, many companies took the opportunity to unveil new products. A few of the most notable are highlighted below.

Autodesk relaunched ReCap with several enhancements to the ReCap portfolio. ReCap as part of Autodesk Suites is a free desktop application for laser scan preparation.

ReCap 360 is a cloud-connected desktop application that allows users to easily integrate reality capture data into the design process. New features include top-requested modifications from ReCap 360 users worldwide and are designed to maximize end-to-end Reality Computing workflows. New features announced for ReCap 360 include: native laser scan imports; smart measurement tools that allow you to easily measure diameters and distances between cylinders and planes with automatic shape fitting; and advanced annotation and sync.

New offerings for ReCap 360 Ultimate, formerly ReCap Pro, include: all features above; a new automatic scan-to-scan registration engine; and reduced pricing at nearly half the annual cost of ReCap Pro, with the same 100 GB of storage space.

Trimble announced at SPAR that it will distribute DotProduct’s DPI-8 handheld scanner to make 3D scanning more accessible to the building design and construction market.

The DPI-8 allows Trimble to bring 3D positioning technology to the masses. DotProduct’s easy-to-use interface and versatility of the handheld scanner is a big draw. The scanner quickly captures a large amount of data with the push of a button, offering instant results, saving small companies manpower and money.

Other benefits include the ability to scan in dangerous, difficult or obstructed locations, and the fact that experts are not required to operate the handheld sanner and the low cost of the product. The hope is that more construction companies will begin using 3D technology.

“Scanners, the point cloud data they generate, and the intelligent integration of this data within highly accurate and constructible 3D models deliver significant value to building construction — but cost and complexity have prevented more widespread adoption,” said Jim McCartney, market manager, field solutions and mobility for Trimble Building’s General Contractor/Construction Manager Division. “We’re excited to bring more accessible scanning and imaging solutions to the market that can stimulate the broader use of 3D laser scanning among construction users.”

Leica Geosystems announced the 8th generation of its laser scanners: the Leica ScanStation P40, P30 and P16. Advances in LiDAR and imaging for these new, ultra-high-speed scanners let users take advantage of the productivity and safety benefits of laser scanning for more types of sites, scenes and as-built projects. Three different models meet different user needs: the P40 and P30 add increasing, long-range capabilities and advanced scanner controls for additional versatility, while the ScanStation P16 is a short-range, introductory model.

With the popular Leica ScanStation C10 and ScanStation P20 scanners as a reference point, the new family of scanners integrates the best features of those two scanners into a single scanner and then expands on them in two important areas: the LiDAR system itself and the scanner’s built-in digital imaging system.