Archive for November, 2011

Nov 22 2011

Visiting an old haunt – Darb in Gualala

Published by under SL In General

Long has it been, but there’s still a bit of energy in the little guy Darb.
For visitors to the old Berkurodam site in Second Life’s Gualala region, a text link to the celebratory YouTube video now glows.

New Video billboard in Gualala

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Nov 15 2011

3D Geospatial For Real—not a simulation and Kitely, on-demand Opensim

Thanks to the astronauts aboard the International Space Station, their time-lapse photography at very high ISO that helps to share some of what their eyes may well see, and of course Michael Koenig for his care and smoothing of the HD video, with some loungy score, too.
Take five (minutes) and watch it on HD in a darkened room. You might find yourself pausing, reviewing, and spending 20 minutes enjoying.

Earth | Time Lapse View from Space, Fly Over | NASA, ISS from Michael König on Vimeo.

I was fascinated by an orange wiggle, that turned out to be the astoundingly well-lit India-Pakistan border, around 1000 km long.

Meanwhile, I’m forming some plans for next semester’s course, and have realized that it may well be possible to offer students training in multi-user virtual environments without hacking one of the lab workstations to image it as an Opensim server. Thanks to the incessant business analytics of Maria Korolov over the past few years, it was possible for me to quickly get caught up in the new and improved options for cloud hosting of Opensim regions.

Right away it became clear that the business model of Kitely was quite compatible with my modest but area-expansive needs for real-life terrain simulations.  I’ve found it quite easy to get set up with a single region, and that’s a really big start.  I was able to use the latest beta Second Life 3.2 viewer to connect to the latest Opensim 0.7.2 stable release, tweak terrain and set up a few flexi-prims to test the weather.  Nice work technically, and a very nice pricing scheme for my sort of use.  I’m also very sympathetic to Ilan Tochner’s philosophy of “just keep building new regions”—it’s a consistent theme with cloud solutions, and refreshing to see it in connection with Opensim.

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Nov 01 2011

Google Maps new MapsGL engine – heavy use and lots of love

Published by under Google Maps MapsGL

I’ve got a version of streams set up, and we’re poised to update our terrain before running through some cycles of review and revision.

But first, I need to get our community base map updated, and that’s been one detour after another it seems.  An innocent-sounding reviewer request to straighten out our parks has led to a months-long campaign of updating shoreline, lower-low water inundation, the judicious trimming of private parcels at the high water line, the representation of park lands both named and parceled as well as public access spaces in the intertidal reaches, and more.  That more has involved a serious effort to accurately represent our marsh lands in terms of tidal channels, mud flats, and vascular marsh vegetation—all of it based on aerial photography and much of it derived from our latest National Agricultural Imagery Program (NAIP) 1-meter 4-band imagery, which has proven very high quality both in spatial edge content as well as dynamic range of lighting.  Marsh features both current and fading in less-than-vigorously reclaimed land have been given much attention.  The details are covering the Petaluma River marsh (downstream of the outflow of San Antonio Creek waters into the Petaluma River) and the Petaluma River banks.

But that led to the latest  detour: those massive steel lattice towers that support electrical transmission lines.  They’re actually very significant landmarks, as well as eminently mappable features.  They were easy, but led to harder stuff: the sub-transmission network.  It’s like you start out with the easy 240 kV lines, and then come back for more.  One day it’s just a few big towers, and then the next thing you know, one’s back for 120 kV, and maybe 64 kV and 32 kV rural lines too.  You know it’s bad when you can’t stop and you just want to locate a few more poles to make it to the next county line…  And then one day you wake up and it’s been 10,000 poles.  ;^)

Anyhow, as a result of what began as a mappable affront to wetland areas, tidal marshes in particular, has now turned into a draft electrical transmission and sub-transmission (not single-house distribution) network feature class.  Turns out that the NAIP 2010 imagery, together with 10cm imagery from 2004 in the urban areas and various 30cm sources in other areas and years has been quite enough to dial in  public utility assets, frequently constructed in public rights-of-way, extracted using basic geospatial intellgence techniques applied to publicly available imagery resources.  The catalyst has been the evolved Google Maps MapsGL viewer engine.

I’ve only started to use MapsGL intensively in the past 10 days or so, but it is astoundingly well integrated.  Right now, I have the sense that there is nothing else quite like it out there for public use.  The interface experience was very different at once, and the viewer actually suggested that I try it when I was very actively moving between 2D map view and Street View, using the mouse wheel.  When I switched over to the new viewer, I was very pleasantly shocked.  The 2D “satellite” view, the “45-degree” views, and Street View were all smoothly mediated by a 3D model textured with imagery from the 45-degree views—using features from the Google Earth plugin.

It was shocking, and something that got me to jump out of my chair to share with a colleague, when I realized that the Earth view was being used to generate a transition between different rotations of the 45-degree view.  Sound obscure?  Consider an oblique 45-degree view looking default north, where you want to look toward the west instead.  Click the compass ring and it will turn, as expected.  What’s not expected (at first) is that the oblique view transition, rather than blanking out and plopping the next view onto the screen, instead puffs out to become a textured 3D sculpty model.  Yes, that means that the buildings, terrain, and trees are shown as they might be when very far zoomed in on Google Earth, and then that view rotates just like it would in a well-handled Second Life viewer, until it settles into the new oblique direction, after which the 3D effect fades and the oblique is presented.

But in one’s mind, crucially, the 3D impression remains and informs the interpretability of the the oblique.  The tree that covers the back part of the house now has been ascribed a 3D volume in the user/analyst’s mind, and suddenly makes more sense than the flat 45-degree view would on its own.

Even without the obliques as an intermediary, popping from 2D map view to Street View is mediated by the virtual reality of textured 3D sculpty objects, and this helps make the Street View perspective far more readable in an instant after arrival.

From my perspective, the MapsGL interface engine is a major evolution of 3D GIS–because it uses a simulated 3D textured surface space to mediate among 2D vertical orthoimagery, 2D oblique imagery, and panoramic ground-level imagery.  That it’s public and cost-free makes it compelling to use for meaningful applications.  In the past few days, I’ve been able to follow sub-transmission pole sequences through fairly rugged forested suburban settings, because my GIS-based moderately detailed imagery allows me to digitize whatever I can see or estimate, while on a full adjacent screen, MapsGL provides sharper orthoimagery, frequent oblique views in urban and adjacent areas, and Street View to tenaciously follow lines as they pass under tree canopy along roadways.

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