Conferences & Meetings July 1998


ASPRS Annual Conference A Distinct Success.

The latest ASPRS Annual Conference was held between 30th March and 3rd April 1998 at the Tampa Convention Centre in Florida. It was the first one held on its own since the decision not to continue the traditional joint annual convention with ACSM which had held its own separate convention at Baltimore earlier in March. From the participants' point of view, the ASPRS Conference was a distinct success with 1,700 participants, excellent conference facilities, a first class technical exhibition and a comprehensive programme of workshops and so-called educational sessions through which the lecture programme was delivered.


The first two days were mainly devoted to committee meetings, numerous one-day or half-day workshops, user group meetings and technical tours. Thus the main core of the meeting comprising the educational sessions and the technical exhibition was concentrated into the remaining three days of the Conference. Presumably this was done to ensure that the cost of participation to individuals and exhibitors was kept to a minimum. However this also meant that there were between 11 and 16 lecture sessions running concurrently on each of these three days. Thus it was impossible to do more than sample a few of the lectures and inevitably there were clashes when potentially interesting topics within related subject areas were being presented at the same time. But certainly the sessions on digital photogrammetry and on high resolution sensors and imagery were well attended and most had good follow-on discussions.

On arrival, participants were issued with the Conference on a CD-ROM.

Even though the production of the CD might have been cheaper for the organisers than the production of the usual hard copy version of the Proceedings, this was definitely a retrograde step. Unless one had brought along a powerful laptop computer equipped with a CD reader, there was no way to read the papers during the meeting. Just to complete your reporter's feeling of frustration and disillusionment, when he did get home, the CD was found to be defective and couldn't be read on any machine in his Institute's lab.


Technical Exhibition

The technical exhibition was of a high quality in that almost all the main system suppliers had stands as well as many of the smaller players in the field. Taking an overall view, there were no striking technical innovations, but everywhere there were changes and improvements to products and systems to be seen, discussed and demonstrated.

From discussion with participants and exhibitors, it appears that quite a lot of business is still being conducted both in sales of new analytical plotters by LH Systems, Zeiss, etc. and on conversions of analogue stereo-plotters to analytical form and the upgrading of existing analytical plotters to run under PCs as offered by Qasco, ABC Software Developers, DAT/EM, etc. However none of this was reflected on the stands where only a single Kern PG2 conversion was shown by Qasco. For the rest, only digital systems were on display.

Inevitably there was much discussion among participants and exhibitors about the proposed merger of the photogrammetric division of Zeiss with LH Systems (Leica/Helava) to give rise to a new grouping, LHZ.

The general feeling was one of surprise since the natural partner for Zeiss would appear to have been Intergraph for whom Zeiss has produced many analytical plotters and scanners. Furthermore their two product lines are much more complementary with fewer clashes to resolve in terms of overlapping or competing systems. Thus, for example, Intergraph does not offer an aerial camera, whereas Leica and Zeiss compete head on in this area, as they do with their photogrammetric quality scanners, as well as their DPWs and their associated aerial triangulation, DEM and orthophoto packages. However obviously other commercial considerations must have played a part in the decision to seek the merger with LHSystems. The joint development of a digital camera was asserted to be an important factor in the decision - though it is not at all clear how this will be facilitated by the proposed merger.


Hardware and Software Systems

On the aerial camera front itself, Leica showed the latest revision (Version 4.0) of its ASCOT software for the flight planning, in-flight execution and post-flight evaluation of aerial photography taken with the RC30/PAV30 combination. Also of note was the lightweight HIEI SEŠIIa camera from Osaka Optical in Japan utilising 5 inch wide film like many of the cameras used by NATO air forces. This camera can be used for vertical, oblique or ground photography. It will be most interesting to see how this metric camera (already equipped with fiducial marks) will fare in the market given the current interest in small format photography.

On the front, Vexcel showed its new VX4000 device in which the analogue videocamera used in its VX3000 model is replaced by a digital camera. Also the XL OrthoVision scanner has been taken over by ISM which has dropped its own DiSC scanner.

With regard to digital photogrammetric workstations(DPWs), probably the most notable event was the introduction of PCI's new OrthoEngine product range which both consolidates and expands the company's offerings in digital photogrammetry. The new range includes airphotomodules (based on the LH Systems SOCET SET software) and a large number of satellite modules to deal with stereo-pairs of space imagery acquired from optical sensors such SPOT and IRS(c)1C/Dand the SAR devices mounted on ERS, JERS and Radarsat. Even more important is that 3D viewing and measuring capabilities for feature extraction and data editing are now available throughout the range using either anaglyphs or alternating shutters.

For the rest, small but useful improvements were visible everywhere rather than new systems. There is an obvious and continuing move towards the use of PC platforms running Windows NT even Zeiss is beginning to do so and much use of dual Pentium Pro processors or single Pentium II processors operating at ever increasing speeds (now at 333 MHz). Intergraph showed its new SSK kit which allows the software from its ImageStation Z DPW to be run on a standard (i.e. non Intergraph) PC, while Vision International introduced a new Stereo ImagingEngine (SIE) on its SoftPlotter DPW. Some of the smaller suppliers such as ISM and KLTAssociates demonstrated impressive systems and appear to be making good sales in certain specific countries or application fields.

Some of the most interesting new items shown on the Exhibition were the large format image printers e.g. the Cymbolic Sciences LightJet 5000RS device producing huge (50 x 50 inch) photographic prints direct from digital image data and the AgfaJet Alpha plotter producing similarly large sized image maps on plain paper using inkjet technology with eight individual print heads. These developments were also reflected in the displays on the stands of the surveying and mapping firms, many of which featured high-resolution images. However what seems to be missing at the moment is a real understanding of the cartographic design elements such as symbols and text that need to be added to convert these spectacular images into full cartographic products in the form of image maps.

In summary, it was a really good Conference and well worth attending. Next year's meeting will be held at the opposite corner of conterminous U.S.A. in Portland, Oregon.

Prof. Gordon Petrie, Department of Geography and Topographic Science, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, G12 8QQ, Scotland, UK.