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29 Mar 2011

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DARPA and Zebra Imaging Breaking More 3D Boundaries Than James Cameron

Added by Category: Daily Intelligence Brief, General


It seems that the entertainment industry is always getting all the attention with regards to 3D technologies. Last year, with the success of the movie Avatar, it’s starting to feel like the 1950s again. And, with several 3D TVs debuting at CES this year, before you know it, you’ll be watching Dora The Explorer with your kids in 3D. But many outside of the GEOINT sector, do not realize that our industry is the one blazing a trail when it comes to 3D. For example, USGIF member company Zebra Technologies and DARPA are developing the Urban Photonic Sandtable Display (UPSD), which is a fully holographic battlefield planning table (no glasses required) that can be scaled up to 6 feet diagonally and allows visual depth of up to 12 inches.

Urban Photonic Sandtable Display (UPSD)
Here’s a representation of the type of visual data that UPSD would provide.

Intergraph Announced 3D Visual Capabilities in GeoMedia in 2005
Six years ago, Intergraph announced an OEM agreement with Skyline Software Systems to integrate Skyline’s 3D visualization technology within Intergraph’s GeoMedia product line. As the original press release states: “Under the agreement, GeoMedia users will have 3D visualization for an entire range of geospatial information – from digital elevation models to high-resolution imagery and geospatial features – such as road networks, infrastructure and other points of interest.” Yes, that is right, 3D innovation well before Avatar hit the theaters.

3D Geospatial Data — Geospatial Solutions 2009 Article
The usage of three dimensional data in the geospatial industry is in its infancy. It makes sense to me. Sometimes, it’s hard enough for folks to obtain and maintain accurate two dimensional data, not to mention elevation! However, as geospatial technology continues to evolve, the availability of 3D geospatial data will evolve. I’m pretty sure that in 10 years we will look back and be amazed at how little we used 3D geospatial data. But for now, what the heck are Mean Sea Level, ellipsoidal height, orthometric height, geoid height? Sources of accurate elevation data are difficult to find. Typically, you’re going to find elevation data from aerial photogrammetry projects, LiDAR missions or from GPS data collection projects. Since availability of this sort of data on the world-wide web isn’t as prevalent as 2D geospatial data, 3D geospatial data utilization isn’t main stream yet. Be sure to check out the full Geospatial Solutions 2009 article.

TerraGo 3D Composer
Some of the biggest challenges with elevation data such as LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) data include large file sizes and the need for a user to have knowledge of sophisticated viewer software in order to access and interact with the data files. As a result, only a limited number of people are able to take advantage of the collected data – until now. USGIF member company TerraGo has applied its years of experience in working with large, complex 2D GIS maps and images to the 3D world with its TerraGo 3D Composer software. Now, virtually anyone who knows how to use PDF files can access and interact with LiDAR and other sources of rich geospatial data. And with the dramatic increase in elevation data collection in recent years, this ability for more people to share and easily understand the data is becoming increasingly important.

NAVTEQ Showcased 3D Laser Mapping Technology at CES 2010
Last year, USGIF member company NAVTEQ announced at the Consumer Electronic Show 2010 that it has begun collecting data to construct detailed 3D models and maps of the United States. NAVTEQ uses a LiDAR system that utilizes lasers to construct 3D maps of the world out of a sea of data points. The company boasted it uses 64 rotating LiDAR lasers, captures 1.5 million 3D data points per second from features as far as 150 meters away, and works even when the data collection vehicle is traveling at highway speeds.

Applied Imagery Offers Cutting-Edge 3D Imaging Tools for LiDAR — Enabling Military Applications and Disaster Planning
The old adage that data is only good when you can analyze it, understand it and act on it certainly rings true in our sector today. At Applied Imagery, the goal is to provide software tools that enable end users to visualize and exploit LiDAR, Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR), or any source of 3D terrain or point information. And the end result is 3D situational awareness. In addition to military applications, Applied Imagery’s Quick Terrain Modeler and Quick Terrain Reader have been used by federal, state and local governments to better prepare for natural disasters. For example, LiDAR surveys, in conjunction with the company’s software, are used in flood mapping, coastal surveying, forestry, and habitat delineation to categorize terrain, assess risks, and plan accordingly. Check out the original 2008 got geoint? post here.

So, as our readers can see, many USGIF member companies have been blazing the 3D trail for many years. Now, if only Hollywood would take notice! Happy Tuesday!

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