Haptics, AI, what’s next?

PDM Editor Neil McNaughton’s poor track record for crystal ball gazing does not stop him from speculating on the future of new technology for seismic interpretation.

If you have not received a copy of the Petroleum Data Manager CD-ROM Archive with this issue - complain to someone! Us in fact, at pdm@oilit.com. If you have received it - check it out! Just pop it in your CD-Drive and wait for it to start. Have no fear, the CD has been checked for viruses, and will not load anything to your hard disk. Make sure you try the Buyer’s Guide - and if you are a software vendor or service provider - make sure you are in it. Also see the new ‘contributed papers’ section - and again, if you have some material you think would fit in with the PDM/Oil IT content - please let us know.

A secret

Enough plugging for this month. Changing hats from marketer to editor, I want to let you into a secret. Despite my monthly pontificating in these columns, I do not have a great track record as a forecaster of industry trends. I well remember visiting a colleague in 1975 who had the honor of interpreting one of the first 3D surveys in the North Sea. I was less than impressed. First, it seemed that folding the paper sections every half centimeter or so made the paper sections look as though they had been through the shredder (well I was right on that).


Secondly, it seemed to be an expensive way of doing the interpreters work of lining up the faults. Well, I was wrong, even if it took another ten years for navigation technology to catch up with the 3D ideal, and as much for visualization and interpretation software to spare us all that fastidious folding. The lesson that I have learned, and one that I try to apply to PDM, is that technologies, even esoteric, are probably more worthy of consideration than my cynical nature would normally accord.


This PDM I hope demonstrates this approach - with an update on haptic technology from Sensable and Norwegian startup Inside Reality, along with some signs that radical new interpretation technologies are being applied successfully to those 3D data sets that failed to inspire me a quarter of a century ago.


Haptics, wearable hardware such as that sported by Lara Croft, gives the user some kind of sensory clue (other than visual) as to the nature of the 3D world being observed. A user can literally feel a formation’s (acoustic) hardness, or hear a gamma ray signature as a musical sound. Head movements can be used to fly through the data, and instead of pointing and clicking, you can clutch and grasp a document - crumple it up and throw it into the recycle bin.

Killer app

There I go again, more unbecoming frivolity, I’m sorry, but it is easier to think of silly uses for haptics that to spot the killer application. Maybe that is why I am an editor and neither a software developer nor a venture capitalist. But at the EAGE, I did see some software that made me realize that we have some way to go before we are through extracting all the potential value from 3D. TotalFinaElf’s Sismage - which has somehow been given a second lease of life since it spun-off into CGG/Flagship/Paradigm’s StratiMagic - shows how much information could be extracted automatically from 3D seismic.


State of the art 3D is no longer about ‘just lining up the faults,’ but is applying artificial intelligence to model a whole basin’s history. De Groot Bril’s d-Tect appears to be leveraging such technology, and I don’t doubt that the major vendors are working away on similar projects.

Bye for now

So in guise of conclusion, and before I scoot off on my holidays, I would simply like to wish you all well for the rest of the summer. Oh, and look out for PDM at both the SEG in San Antonio, and the SPE in New Orleans, where we will be on the lookout for yet more futuristic trends.

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