How will design and engineering workflows change when a substantial amount of geospatial data can be crowdsourced? This was a key theme at SPAR International 2013. In his keynote address, Michael Jones, chief technology advocate of Google, painted a picture of a world in which the general public becomes a continuous source of real-time data through emerging technologies such as Google Glass. Smartphones and tablets are already driving some of this shift. “There’s a whole world of information,” he said, “and every bit of it is important to somebody.”

Recognizing this trend, Autodesk recently launched new software called ReCap with the idea of taking reality capture mainstream. “We believe that every Autodesk user deserves to start with the existing environment rather than a blank sheet of paper or a blank screen, so we’re trying to make reality capture software easier to use, more scaled and more integrated,” said Robert Shear, director and general manager of reality capture for Autodesk.

Designed for use within existing Autodesk platforms such as InfraWorks, Navisworks, Revit and AutoCAD, ReCap is not quite a crowdsourcing application—at least not yet. But as the cost of hardware continues to drop, an increasing number of firms are beginning to adopt laser scanning and photogrammetry technologies, which is creating new challenges on the software side.

“There are a lot of problems in the workflow in this industry,” said Elmer Bol, director of product management, reality capture, for Autodesk. “Going from capture to deliverable is often a painful process. We’re trying to streamline that workflow so it becomes more accessible to our average customer, which will allow them to start using reality capture technology more prevalently than they do today.”

Importantly, the profile of that “average customer” is changing. Bol said Autodesk built up around 10 to 12 million users of AutoCAD and other professional products over 30 years. In the last four years, as the company has introduced consumer-focused products for the iPhone and iPad, the company’s user base has grown to more than 70 million people.

“From our perspective, we don’t really care what kind of capture device is used because we can’t even think about what’s going to come out in the next few years,” Bol said. “We just want to be able to have our customers use the one that’s relevant to their specific workflow. That could be aerial scanning or aerial photogrammetry, or terrestrial LiDAR. It could be ground-based photogrammetry, a handheld Kinect, or a cell phone. We’re looking at the whole spectrum and putting the tools and technologies in place to fill those user workflows.”

In the video above, Bol demonstrates some of the capabilities of the ReCap technology. What do you think of ReCap? How will this tool affect the work being handled by geospatial professionals? Share your comments below.