What do the following have in common: Microsoft’s Kinect technology and an ordinary digital camera? They both are capable of making point clouds. The more expensive of these two technologies costs about $200. Still think 3D is too expensive to add to your toolbox?

At last week's Autodesk University (AU) event in Las Vegas, more than 8,000 people gathered to hear a little about the latest technologies. They heard a lot more about what's coming, or at least the potential of what's coming.

Autodesk’s President and CEO Carl Bass told us how ancient statues destroyed by the Taliban have recently been digitally restored thanks to hundreds of digital pictures and a free Autodesk web-based service,123D Catch(formerly Project Photofly).

Michael DeLacey, principal of Microdesk, a BIM consulting, training and support firm, was making point clouds using Microsoft’s Kinect and importing them into Autodesk’s Revit software for a demonstration. Why? Because he can, I suppose. Also, and more importantly, to show that 3D scanning technology will continue to drop in price and become ever-present.

As data capture continues to become cheaper and easier, a substantial opportunity for surveyors will be in teaching others how to use the data.

Are you ready to become a data management professional? Not sure where to even start? Look to the youth. Complex is their norm. They don't know they can't succeed in a bad economy. Look to guys like Edwin “EJ” Sabathia, a 27 year-old engineer with the Moon Express Robotics Lab for Innovation (MERLIN), who was one of several young people highlighted at AU. Sabathia and his team just finished designing and building a robot that will go to the moon to generate high-definition maps of the lunar surface, without any government funding. Where will 3D technology go next?

Highlights from AU, including the general session keynote, are online atAU Virtual 2011through Dec. 9. What software capability most interests you? Share your thoughts below.

Check out POB's list of Top 5 Picks from the AU Virtual 2011.