The 3D world was alive and well this week at SPAR International 2012 in Houston. A record 850 attendees browsed more than 60 exhibits and participated in dozens of conference presentations, roundtable discussions, technical seminars and live demos. Here’s a quick rundown on a few of the hottest new technologies at the conference.

MDL’s Dynascan HD100 system was hailed by several attendees as another disruptive technology. The system uses an off the shelf FARO Focus3D phase-based scanner to create a mobile laser scanner for under $150,000. By integrating the Focus3D with a weatherproof Dynascan HD100 pod, the system accomplishes mobile scanning tasks at speeds up to 70 mph with a 300-degree field of view. For users who already have a Focus3D unit, the Dynascan HD100 pod alone can be purchased for under $120,000. Surveyors I spoke with noted that the low price point combined with MDL’s reputation for quality makes the technology a game changer for mobile mapping, at least for asset data collection.

MDL was also showing off a micro laser technology that weighs only 1.5 oz and measures 1.5 x 1.5 x 1 inches and can turn basic smartphones into high-tech laser scanners. Although the OEM technology is not yet commercially available, MDL representatives noted that it has been licensed to at least one major surveying equipment manufacturer.

Allpoint Systems launched new Scan-Time software and a cloud-based Insight platform, but what really drew everyone’s attention at SPAR International was the autonomous mobile survey system affectionately known as “Adam.” The robot was roaming the exhibit hall collecting scan data and registering it in Scan-time (which Allpoint’s Aaron Morris said was very close to real time). It can be integrated with any terrestrial stationary scan system to create an indoor or outdoor mobile mapping system. Morris said Allpoint is looking for additional beta testers in the surveying community.

Software advances included kubit’s launch of PointSense Heritage, which provides tools for creating typical deliverables in historic preservation and archeology. And Bentley Systems Inc. released Bentley Descartes V8i (SELECTseries 3), 3D modeling software that combines point clouds, raster imagery, and geometry. The resulting models expand the utility of point clouds by supporting hybrid design workflows that deliver “as-operated” 3D models.

Photogrammetry was a hot topic at the conference, with a substantial amount of discussion about whether simple photo-based measurement would replace high-tech laser scanning devices. For now, at least, the technologies remain complementary, with the iPhone as the tool of choice for photogrammetric data capture and manipulation. As sensors and software continue to advance, it’s definitely a technology to continue watching over the next several years.

Additional news, insights and videos from SPAR will be posted over the next week. If you were at SPAR International, what technologies or trends did you find most impressive? Please share your comments below.