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Arriving at the BE in Philadelphia
by Robert Klaschka - 18 May 2010

There is a different feel to this years conference with a smaller than usual attendance, particularly for the European contingent. There are around 15 here from the UK, but some of the other groups are represented in fairly large number. I compared notes with members from the Danish User Community last night during the reception. However there is a good feel here in Philadelphia and a very positive vibe coming from many of the Bentley staff. I very glad I made it here, because it feels that development, particularly in the Building applications is going to move forwards at a new and accelerated pace with their new head Santanu Das.

In fact I very nearly didn't make it out, with Heathrow airport being closed just an hour and a half after my flight left on Sunday, but the ash and wind gods seem to have favoured me and so here I am. I spent most of Monday with Rob Snyder in the North of the City at his home near the Art Museum working on our presentation of Dynamic views enhancements that will be included in Select Series 3 and then rushed back into town to make the evening reception.

This morning I have been to a really fascinating talk on the inclusion of powerful point cloud manipulation tools in Microstation from the next version of V8i Select Series 2 which began its early access phase last week. I have always been interested in the potential of point clouds because we do so pretty much all of our work with Bentley Architecture, and so this development in the product was a must see for me.

Pointools (a UK based company) which has a pointcloud engine called Vortex has been licensed by Bentley and is now built into Microstation at platform level so it can be exposed to various applications (Microstation, Powerdraft, Bentley View, Projectwise Navigator, Power Civil and Power Survey. It is open to very many point cloud formats including XYZ, LAS, PTX, PGZ, ASCII and many manufacturers formats.

The presentation started with an impressive colour animation of an hour scanning exercise in Kew Gardens. An outline of the types of laser scanning available including aerial from planes, mobile from ground based vehicles and ground based fixed scanners. A second animation showing a large area in the region of 20 hectares scanned at 30mm spacing over a two day period with a file size of 2GB of data.

Chris Bober showed an example of a shop front and a road bridge as pointcloud and snapped to and drawn over to produce a 3D model. Then a complex survey of a station was shown and then the model that was created from it. It is evident that the tools have been integrated to make working with pointclouds straight forward and accessible to any proficient 3D Microstation user. Examples of standard MS tools to create surfaces from a pointcloud was very impressive, processing, looks really straightforward to use.

Paul DiGiacobbe from HNTB discussed the benefits that inclusion of these tools into the platform allow, including the accessibility to Microstation Users compared to in the past where working with point clouds has been prohibitively expensive. Now the tools are built into MS Paul sees the use of laser scanned or lidar data throughout the design and construction process, as built process. He also believes that the accuracy of point cloud on site work including clearance checking, and buildability will become increasingly frequent.

Presentation tools were demonstrated showing how the visual appearance of a pointcloud can be changed with sliders and colour display modes. Walk through of the model showed the level of detail was hugely impressive. A road model was combined with a point cloud and then illustrated with a DV clip showing a section.

It is clear that a high level of discipline and planning regarding the positioning of point clouds is required, but one thing is sure, the inclusion of this type of data manipulation into Microstation is going to mean we will be seeing a lot more use of point clouds in our everyday work. We will have to do an evening talk on this exciting new technology.

More later.