So any technology to help in the creation of those assets will be well-recieved. While sitting here waiting for some disc images to be compiled, I'm pondering if there's anything I could play with.
The nicest solution is something that lets the artists do what they used to - travel around with a camera, get everything they need, then come back and get on with putting the textures into levels. So building this extra stuff into the camera itself (or using what a camera can do and postprocessing) is the way to go.
I'm thinking about how to generate normal maps with a regular digital camera, and the best I've come up with is a 'facingness' map. You take two photos of your surface, one with flash and one without. The one without flash is the base color texture. The one without flash is then subtracted from the one with flash; the resulting image is a 'facingness' map, as parts of the surface that face the camera will reflect more light and so show a higher difference when the flash is used.
It's the very beginnings of a normal map, I think, but while it tells us that a texel may be at a 45 degree angle to the base plane, it doesn't tell us in which direction the texel is sloping. It may be possible to combine two or three photographs of the surface and cross-reference facingness maps to figure out where the light is going?