Shape Extraction, not to be confused with “Shape Shifting” which is a completely different thing, but perhaps Autodesk Labs is also working on that for the future.
There is a new Autodesk Labs Technology Preview released just one week after the mind blowing project Photofly was released where you could use photographs to generate a point cloud. This weeks Autodesk Labs release is the Point Cloud Shape Extraction for AutoCAD Plug-in for AutoCAD 2011.
The Point Cloud Shape Extraction Plug-in is a point cloud shape extraction solution which allows you to import, load, and extract shape and geometry information from point cloud data in AutoCAD 2011 and a few other AutoCAD 2011 based products. This plug-in allows you to take a point cloud and extract primitive geometry like flat planes, cylinders,l and more from the point clouds points. You can also generate cross section through the point cloud and have the result in splines or plines and then use those to create derivative geometry such as a 2D drawing or perhaps a 3D model.
After you install the Point Cloud Shape Extraction for AutoCAD Plug-in you will have a new Point Cloud Ribbon Tab.
Here I have a point cloud of the Mandalay Bay Arena where we hold Autodesk University.
First I want to zoom into an area that I want to work on and then crop it out of the point cloud to limit the number of points I am working with and improve performance.
Now using the ribbon I can start to select area that are planar or cylindrical and derive geometry from them fairly easily.
I even used a point cloud of a football to explore shape and form using surfaces and meshes built from the splines of a multiple slice of the point cloud. Imagine using an existing building or organic shape to be the base shape of your creation.
Best results are accomplished with the use a high resolution laser scan instead of a loose or low resolution point cloud created from alternate means like photogrammetry.
Check out the the sample point cloud data and the great tutorial videos by Guillermo Melantoni at http://labs.autodesk.com/utilities/shape_extraction_autocad/overview/
Check out Scott Sheppard's posting http://labs.blogs.com/its_alive_in_the_lab/2010/07/shape-extraction-for-autocad-now-available.html as he included Guillermo’s videos in a download link for those without YouTube access.
The technology previews on the Autodesk Labs are free, all you need to do is provide some feedback so we can evolve the ideas to potential products and solutions.