3D, GIS, VR… We’re in Cloud City

This entry is part 6 of 7 in the series xyHt in print, June 2016

When the father of GIS, the late Roger Tomlinson, first imagined a computerized system for handling land inventory mapping more than half a century ago, did he imagine that GIS would become such an integral part of our lives? At a click of a button, we can access directions to where we want to go, whether that’s by car, train, or our own two feet. Our mobile devices constantly remind us of events near us and make suggestions based on our frequent locations. Roger would be proud of what we have achieved, but what’s to come?

Last year I would have said that 3D GIS was the next thing, but we already have so many choices for data and methods that you only need to look at companies like CyberCity 3D and their 3D streaming to know that this is no longer a dream, much like 2D map tiles a few years back.

Having just returned from GISWorx 2016, I’m humbled to see how the United Arab Emirates already has spatial data infrastructure for 3D, BIM, CIM (city information modeling), and any other cool term for smart cities you can think of. It’s amazing to see how this enables projects to be built faster and more efficiently, and it showcases how cities like Dubai can grow so rapidly and dynamically. Closer to home, this issue features a story by Matteo Luccio on the adoption of the city management tool SmarterBetterCities in Oregon.

The next step will be immersive GIS. With the VR industry set to “significantly disrupt” the mobile market by 2020 (according to TechCrunch), we’ll finally have a medium to interact with the world, and that world will need coordinates, translation, and data with a means to make sense of it all. This new world will be able to consume BIM, CIM and high-end visualization, and through Google “eye”-type interfaces make surveying quicker and easier.

The current generation is definitely already immersed in this world (they’re waiting for the rest of us to catch up). In this issue read a profile of a high-school student who worked on an imaging project for NASA during an internship.

While great advances are being made in immersive utilization of 3D virtual cities (and worlds), we still face the challenge of collecting sufficient data to create such models. This is where the surveyors, remote-sensing specialists, photogrammetrists, and mappers—the types who read this publication—can conquer.

In this issue we highlight the practical side of 3D mapping with stories on combined terrestrial and UAS scanning/imaging and how high-precision GNSS is being paired with iPads for resource mapping. We also have a look under the bonnet (okay, hood) of a mobile-mapping system that includes a case study of a project that will help build a 3D city.

And then, of course, British television showed a working prototype of the elusive Quantum Compass recently; expect stories from us about this and other near-future disruptive positioning, location, and measurement technologies. The mind boggles.



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