Tag Archives: Data

The Art & Science of 3D Cities at the Transport Systems Catapult

Back in March I attended a day long workshop the at the Transport Systems Catapult (TCS) in Milton Keynes on the subject of ‘The Barriers to Building 3D Synthetic Environments’. The aim of the workshop was to bring together key SMEs and Academics to collaboratively identify challenges and discuss solutions for the creation of virtual environments that would be suitable for simulating and testing transport scenarios.

Alongside presentations from the Transport Systems, Future Cities and Satellite Applications catapults a number of SMEs also presented on topics as diverse as LiDAR data capture, GNSS positioning, 3D GIS and the use of GIS data in game engines. For my purposes the following talk on ‘The Art & Science of 3D Cities’ by Elliot Hartley of Garsdale Design was particularly interesting and raised a number of great points:

One of the key challenges for the generation and use of 3D data discussed by Elliot derives from the heightened expectation generated by the depiction of 3D urban environments in films, video games and Google Earth. The truth is the creation of these kinds of environments require considerable investment in terms of time and investment. Elliot’s talk poses key questions for stakeholders when embarking on a 3D project:

  • Why do you want a 3D model?
  • Do you actually need a 3D model?
  • What kind of 3D model do you want?
  • What 3D model do you actually need?
    • Small areas with lots of detail?
    • Large areas with little detail?
  • How much time and/or money do you have?
  • Will you want to publish the model?
  • What hardware and software do you have?
  • What’s the consequence of getting the model wrong?

While the primary focuses for the day were the practical and technical challenges of creating 3D environments, the further implication of Elliot’s discussion is that the use of 3D data and the creation of virtual environments can no longer be considered a purely technical activity with neutral products and outputs. For me the last question in particular foregrounded the stakes involved in moving beyond visualisation toward the growing use of 3D data in various forms of analysis. Thanks to Elliot for the stimulating talk.

After the presentations we had a tour of the TCS facilities and then broke up into work groups to discuss a number of themes. A report and summary is expected to be published by the TCS soon.

VUCITY: Approaching real-time city information

On Tuesday I was invited to visit Wagstaffs Design in London to take a look at their latest product VUCITY. Powered by the Unity game engine, VUCITY offers an interactive 3D model of London that can be deployed to a touch screen table, video wall, tablet or desktop computer as required. The standalone application enables users to rotate and view the entire scene and zoom down to the scale of individual buildings.

VUCITY Table

Currently VUCITY covers 80 square kilometres of Central London, from Earls Court in the west to the ExCeL exhibition centre in the east, and from Old Street in the north to Battersea in the south. The project is a joint venture between Wagstaffs and Vertex Modelling who are able to provide high detail 3D models of the London area. Created from high resolution imagery the models boast an average accuracy tolerance of 40mm compared with full measured surveys. This degree of accuracy is particularly important for viewshed analysis and visualisation proposed as a possible application in Wagstaffs’ promotional video:

Over time Wagstaffs are seeking to integrate a range of data including data on demographics, property prices over time as well as live data streams for transport. The inclusion of real-time data is possibly the most exciting aspect of the project but also holds the biggest challenge. This is a fantastic project and I’ll be following it keenly. I thoroughly recommend heading over to the Wagstaffs’ website to check out VUCITY and their other great projects today.