Every year, the gaming industry teases us with the latest and greatest in new games and technology at shows around the world. One of the biggest shows, E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo) recently gave us a couple of previews that really wowed. The first, Watch Dogs, is by major game studio Ubisoft, and explores the implications of controlling all aspects of city functions, sensor networks, and even monitoring the inhabitants’ personal technology footprint through a single operating system, a “City OS”, and what would happen if someone had the skills to hack that system. The short preview of the game from E3 showcases stunning graphics and real-time movement, and shows that not only can the gaming world be a great source of inspiration and technology for geospatial applications of 3D and real-time modeling, but the stories played out in games can also explore the questions that arise from implementing this technology. Take a look at the preview here:
I am floored! We talk all the time about the use of SketchUp in building out virtual worlds and have just taken for granted that it was tied in to Google’s draw for Earth and Maps. Apparently that was not such a given.
The SketchUp acquisition is just the most recent in a line of notable acquisitions that include eCognition for Remote Sensing and PeopleNet for logistics, as well as others that link to SketchUp’s potential such as BIM and StruCAD.
These software trends have been on top of Trimble’s growing GNSS and a related hardware offerings.
A big part of my research for about a decade now has been exploring the development of immersive virtual landscapes, and how evolving technologies continue to make impressive strides toward creating compelling and believable virtual worlds. One of the issues that has always been at the forefront is the cost of virtual reality hardware, whether it was early attempts at head-mounted displays or immersive rooms, such as CAVE environments. These technologies can give you amazing simulations, but most users can’t afford to buy the hardware, let alone have the space to set up multi-walled immersive environments. Now, virtual reality technology is increasingly moving toward a consumer experience, with 3D TV’s, smartphone VR and augmented reality apps, and interface devices like Microsoft’s Kinect and even Sony’s Playstation VITA with Augmented Reality (AR) capabilities.
Here’s a cool project that I had to share as well. Earlier this month, USC researchers participating in the Off-the-Shelf Virtual Reality Workshop, held in conjunction with IEEE Virtual Reality 2012 and organized by the Mixed Reality lab at USC, debuted FOV2GO, a portable fold-out smartphone viewer for iPhone and Android (sadly no Windows Phone love) that turns the screen into a 3-D virtual reality system. The viewer is made of cardboard and is easily assembled to look like an old-school ViewMaster, and you insert your smartphone into the FOV2GO and look through the eyepieces for a stereo 3D effect. To create your own 3D virtual environments to explore, there are downloadable software tools that are part of the project as well. I’d really like to use the FOV2GO in my class, so I’ll have to find out if they’ll be available in larger numbers.
This short YouTube video illustrates the FOV2GO in action:
Sketch Up has announced their first annual Halloween Challenge. You can pick three categories: 1:Jack 0′Lantern, 2: Haunted House, 3: Both together. You need to fill out a challenge submission form and upload your model to 3D Warehouse in publicly downloadable format. The SketchUp team will judge the entries on October 28th. Here is a link to Googlemeister’s Amazing Haunted House Walk Through Collection from last year in 3D Modeler.
Ok, not Mars. Not just yet, at least. Researchers have created really cool science project called MAPPER. The idea is to leverage citizen scientists to comb through data and find signs of life on far away planets. For now, they have tapped into a couple of DeepWorker bots currently exploring the depths of two lakes in Canada. It’s more or less a groundwork (or more like underwater groundwork, I guess) project to lay down the foundations for a system that could be used on other planets. The system uses a cool web interface that should be immediately recognizable to anyone who plays games. Taking a clue from modern gaming, the scientists have built in social media and achievements. Let’s be honest – who DOESN’T want to unlock the ‘Found Life On Other Planet’ achievement?
Augmented reality is one of those technologies that has seemed like it would be next big thing for the last couple of years, but it has proven pretty difficult to translate from WOW factor proof-of-concept prototypes to actual commercial implementations. When I saw this demo video of Sony’s Smart AR, though, I have to say I was pretty impressed with how good the AR model looks in the real-world environment it’s being projected into, and how responsive it is. The SmartAR seems to be able to handle movement in the 3D space really well, and the virtual object is not tied to the marker surface, which is really important in making the augmented reality compelling. Another aspect of SmartAR technology allows a user to capture an image of an object and then access additional information about that object through the device. For Sony, of course, implementing technology like Smart AR for gaming and other commercial uses is certainly a main focus, but I can see tons of other applications for markerless, high-speed augmented reality.
Since I seem to be highlighting software that I am interested in getting time to work with lately, I thought I would return to Project Galileo, a great project that is currently going on over at Autodesk Labs. Building on many Autodesk desktop technologies (such as LandXplorer) and labs projects, Project Galileo is:
an easy-to-use planning tool for creating 3D city models from civil, geospatial and building data, and 3D models. Galileo also enables users to sketch conceptual infrastructure ideas within the 3D city model.
Only so much can be said about a technology, so instead of fumbling over a description I will point you to Autodesk Labs where Project Galileo will be available for your hands-on experience through mid-August, 2011. And of course there are always the videos that software manufacturers are providing to tempt us with their (soft)wares. This particular video looks at Project Galileo’s potential in GeoDesign.
Almost daily, I see a new cool and amazing hack that someone has accomplished with Microsoft’s Kinect that tops the last one. I’m hoping to try my hand at some much more modest attempts this summer related to my immersive simulation project, but I couldn’t come close to what Martin Szarski has done: 3D street mapping with a Kinect, his Google Nexus One phone for GPS, and his trusty car. If you haven’t seen this yet, the results are pretty awesome. The Kinect captures images for real-world objects as he drives along the street, and his phone GPS allows him to tie the image data to real-world coordinates. Up till now, you had to have some pretty expensive equipment to pull this off, and he demonstrates that you can do it with fairly inexpensive hardware and some great coding ability, of course. Martin already has some plans on how to improve on his first setup which began as an indoor experiment, and you can read his explanation of how he did it over on his blog.
This week’s podcast (episode 274) looked at the 2D/3D question, but as we tend to do, we talked a good bit more about 3D than 2D. We each, of course, have worked with 2D and 3D applications, but again and again we have returned to 3D for a particular use. Urban environments scream for 3D. Sue has blogged about her efforts in creating 3D visualizations for historic environments, 3D models for planning activities, and the plain old fun of looking at city data in a 3D viewer.
But how can you get into the 3D city modeling game? Well there are lots of options.
These are just a few of the resources online that you could check out to get on the road to creating your own 3D cities.
If you haven’t seen the demo of Microsoft Research’s Street Slide, it’s a pretty cool addition to Bing Streetside that is not available yet, but will be presented at SIGGRAPH 2010. While Google Streetview and Bing Streetside allow you to see photo representations of an area as you navigate through it, you’re basically limited to the perspective from your position on the centerline of the roadway as you look left or right. What Street Silde allows you to do is zoom out and take a side scrolling type of look at the whole side of the street moving side to side and panning over the streetscape. It looks like you can also get a panoramic view as well. If you want to see Street Slide in action, check out this video: