ANAHEIM, CA (SIGGRAPH 2013) July 25 2013 - There are a number of software companies that specialize in processing 3D point cloud data collected from laser scanners. Scans can be made of anything from a small part to an entire oil refinery. The software is not cheap, because it caters to industrial users; think in terms of tens of thousands of dollars.
From the entertainment world comes Thinkbox, a company whose CEO has spent more than a decade thinking hard about how process points ever more efficiently. First, he figured out how to simulate effects for movies, like water, smoke, and fire using millions of points, then billions of them for even greater realism.
Thinkbox founder and CEO Chris Bond told us that he realized recently that his algorithms could be applied to another kind of point, 3D point clouds collected from laser scanners. This is because effects firms now scan the interior and exterior of buildings to make bring them into the backgrounds of digital movie sets. Stepping over to the CAD market is not a much of a stretch, especially when he foresees his algorithms handling trillions of points.
Right now, his FROST software can render 40 billion points in 28 minutes, turning them into meshes. He says that's 37,000 times faster than Geomagic, but we can only take his word for it. "That's points," he emphasizes, "not volumes. And we create water-tight meshes." As proof, he hands us the 3D printed model of a run-down industrial building that's also displayed as points and meshes on the monitor overhead. His TOOLS software fills in occlusions.
Mr Bond's ultimate aim: to model every cell in the human body, all 300 trillion of them. "Is this done by just his algorithms, or with hardware?" We wonder. Just algorithms, he reassures us. Well, his algorithms need the support of large and fast hard drives, specifically an array of solid state drives to hold all that data. He does not use GPUs, because all data would have to fit into the memory of the graphics board, for which even NVIDIA's new 12GB board is insufficient.
Thinkbox and FROST potentially could shake up the point cloud industry, if their claims are valid: processing tens of thousands times faster, handling thousands times more points, at one-tenth the cost.