Virtual reconstructions of real cities are giving town planners and architects a clearer picture of the potential impact of future designs.
Computer scientists at the University of Arkansas in the US have developed a technique for rapidly constructing accurate 3D models of real cities using a unique combination of information. This includes satellite imagery, mapping data, building records and images captured from low-flying aircraft. Textures are also recorded using handheld digital cameras.
The researchers used the technique to build a 3D model of the city of Fayetteville in northwest Arkansas, which is experiencing rapid metropolitan growth. By adding models of planned building works to the 3D model, and then importing everything into the mapping program Google Earth, they are able to see exactly how these designs would impact on the landscape.
To construct their model of Fayetteville, the researchers used "oblique" aircraft imagery captured by a US company called Pictometry, and laser-based range-finding measurements taken from the ground."