From Urban Terrain Models to Visible Cities

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Ribarsky, William
Wasilewski, Anthony A.
Faust, Nick L. (Nickolas Lea)
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We are now faced with the possibility and in some cases the results of acquiring accurate digital representations of our cities. But these cities will not be capable of interactive visualization unless we meet some fundamental challenges. The first challenge is to take data from multiple sources, which are often accurate in themselves but incomplete, and weave them together into comprehensive models. Because of the size and extent of the data that can now be obtained, this modeling task is daunting and must be accomplished in a semi-automated manner. Once we have comprehensive models, and especially if we can build them rapidly and extend them at will, the next question is what to do with them. Thus the second challenge is to make the models visible. In particular they must be made interactively visible so they can be explored, inspected, and analyzed. In this article, we discuss the nature of the acquired urban data and how we are beginning to meet the challenges and produce visually navigable models. These models provide the basis for building virtual environments for a variety of applications.
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