Surveyors use tools that have evolved to work together, like total stations and plats. The relatively low volume of data produced by a total station lets a viewer see a point and connecting lines and, if the plat was made correctly, understand what the data means. Devices that create 3D volumetric data like point clouds make paper no longer a viable way to consume information created in the field.

The U.S. government recently agreed to fund a new way to access and manipulate data by pulling a page from Star Wars. Through a $58 million contract awarded to Carlsbad, Calif.-based Ostendo Technologies under the Synthetic Holographic Observation (SHO) Program, the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA) hopes to advance the development of “hogels”—essentially holographic pixels. The ultimate aim of the project is to create a holographic system that allows users to explore and manipulate complex layers of 3D datasets without fancy headgear or clunky glasses. (Think Princess Leia’s virtual scene with Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars.) Here's an amusing YouTube video about the investment.

So the evolution continues. First there was paper and pencil; that gave way to screens and drafting programs, but kept the total stations. Now we have 3D holograms designed to make better use of 3D data from LiDAR.

Am I just reaching for connections, or does this development seem like a pattern? If so, what is the next logical step for us as data management professionals?