Near’s interactive environment, called NearLondon, is made possible by the convergence of 3D laser scanning, digital modeling and gaming technologies. At the centre of the development process is Geomagic Studio software, which made it possible for Near to convert 3D scans into realistic digital models of the West End.
An immersive experience
NearLondon is the first in a planned series of interactive 3D cityscapes from Near. The content created by Near differs from that of search engines and mapping programs by providing a totally immersive 3D experience for visitors and vendors.
Visitors to NearLondon can stroll the streets and window shop at exclusive West End establishments. Clicking on items in NearLondon shop windows deep-links visitors to those same items on the store’s web site, where they can preview goods, receive additional information, and make purchases. Many retailers are planning to create their own immersive 3D environments behind their shop doors.
In addition to shopping, NearLondon is designed to enable theatres, sporting venues, restaurants and other commercial concerns to directly engage customers within the 3D world.
Data capture at street level
The NearLondon experience is part of a growing movement to capture physical objects with 3D laser scanners and transform them into accurate 3D digital models. The approach has proven valuable in accelerating product development, improving quality, and providing better patient care. For Near, the goal was a richer user experience.
Near began the London project by scanning streets and buildings with a Leica HDS 6000 laser scanner, which has an accuracy of +/- 1mm. Hundreds of buildings were scanned, as part of an ongoing process to recreate the whole of London’s Zone One. The current NearLondon virtual environment covers 8km (approximately five miles) of linear streetscape.
Data from the Leica scanner was imported into Geomagic Studio software as point clouds – 3D coordinate data that represents points on the surfaces of a physical object. Geomagic enabled Near to automatically register the different scans, repair and optimise meshes for the model, smooth curves, perform complex hole filling, and create accurate 3D polygon models of the West End.
Processing huge data sets
The biggest challenge in the NearLondon project was the size of the data generated by the laser scanner. There are more than 1,000 data sets in the initial cityscape, each approximately 500 MB in size.
“Geomagic Studio was able to handle the very large data sets we had and model them with high accuracy,” says Marc Tafler, lead 3D artist and creative director for Near. “Its decimation capabilities [the ability to reduce the size of data sets while retaining accuracy] are the most advanced I’ve seen.”
Stunning visual experience
The 3D polygon models generated by Geomagic were brought into Q, a 3D development platform from Qube Software Ltd. Q not only provides tools that enable developers to create photorealistic scenes and live action for applications that include games and other interactive environments, it also allows companies to comprehensively customize the software to handle every conceivable 3D project.
Transcending physical/digital divide
With NearLondon, people can get an insight into what tools such as Geomagic Studio are doing elsewhere for product design and engineering:
Near’s ambitions extend to modeling the world's most compelling city destinations and turning them into virtual environments for business, socializing and exploration. The founders have complementary business backgrounds:
Images available on request.
Neil McLeod. Tel: +44 (0)1666 504293, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Geomagic and Geomagic Studio are registered trademarks of Geomagic, Inc. Near is a trademark of Nearworld Investments Limited in England and in other countries. All other brand names, product names or trademarks, registered trademarks or service marks belong to their respective holders.
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