Thoughts on structure from motion – Smith et al. (2016)

Smith et al. (2016) discuss various dimensions of the structure from motion (SFM) photogrammetry technique, which is a recent development in topographic survey methods in physical geography. This article is one of the first times that our class has touched on a dimension of GISciences which is tightly linked to a physical system. As such, this article was particularly interesting for how it highlighted many considerations which are relevant when using a physical system that I hadn’t previously considered to be significant. As the SFM technique (and photogrammetry more broadly) collects data from a sensor mounted on a platform, it becomes important to think about factors such as portability, sensor type, and cost. As evidenced by this example, it is important for us to remember that technological developments and progress in building software systems must also be accompanied by practical implementation.

This article outlines the value of SFM for its relative affordability and accessibility (in terms of level of expertise required). Such benefits make me think more broadly about the various barriers to access for the field of GISciences. As highlighted in this case, the often-high cost of software, data, and sensing platforms is a clear barrier which may restrict the research being done to formal institutions (eg. universities), businesses, and other individuals/organizations with ample financial resources. The level of expertise necessary for the various advanced techniques that GISciences research often requires may also close the field to those without formal training. Techniques such as SFM which focus on democratizing the field of GISciences will hopefully grow in coming years.

Comments are closed.