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SpatialTau - 3D GIS is Arriving, Possibly...

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The 3D GIS revolution is on its way, unless it isn’t. A little backstory, I was the CTO at Cityzenith, so I’ve probably put a lot of thought into this over the years and I think we’re so close to something happening, maybe.
Traditionally 3D GIS was awful. ArcScene/ArcGlobe or whatever else you used was so bad. It wasn’t performant and you should as heck couldn’t use it to share data. This is why Esri bought a little-known company, Procedural, back in 2011 to help them get a jump on things. I wrote at the time:
Esri has bought a company called Procedural that gives Esri now 3D content creation tools that are used in movies such as Cars 2. Clearly this is a huge move for Esri and could put them in markets they haven’t been in before.
That’s it, nothing more. I remember being amazed at what I saw but I didn’t write anything more. In fairness, live blogging the plenary was always hard, so any deeper thoughts were shelved.
When I joined Cityzenith, we used Cesium.js as our engine. I like a ton about Cesium, but we moved off of it to go to Unity3D because of poor browser support (which has been fixed since then). The one thing we kept and I think the one thing that is most critical to 3D GIS is the 3D Tiles standard. I liked much about Unity and how we could leverage Mapbox to have our 3D cities rendered, but if I had to do it today, I’d just automate the process as really all that Mapbox did was extrude OSM data. We’d still need the geocoder and such but the look and feel of the city was so important to us, I would love to control that more. But I’m not at Cityzenith anymore so I worry about other things.
What I’m really interested in is how 3D GIS can share ideas with people. I love the AECOM’s virtual public consultation tool which I really think brings together the 3D with a virtual environment that people can browse. Plus in the age of COVID, this is such a great way to bring public input to users that might not want or be able to come to a public meeting in person. How one feeds these systems it critical though. You can learn more how AECOM is trying to solve these problems on their Digital Innovation microsite.
This is the future, virtual public involvement
This is the future, virtual public involvement
The struggle here isn’t technology. Workflows are already being adjusted to handle cloud SaaS collaboration. The software to create content is in the hands of the right people. The tools to share this content to users is readily available inside browsers on both mobile and desktop clients. The biggest issue is the will to accomplish this. If COVID has shown us anything, it is that humans do a damn good job coping with generational emergencies pretty well and adapt to using technology to continue to get work done. We just really need to make sure that this realization continues to foster the innovation that we are seeing to not lose momentum. AECOM created that virtual public consultation tool before any of us even know what COVID-19 was. That’s was I’d love to see happen more.
The U.S. Is Getting Shorter, as Mapmakers Race to Keep Up - The New York Times
BMW introduces new Maps and infotainment concept
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James Fee
James Fee @jamesmfee

Spatial, workflows and technology

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