What Do LiDAR Data and Video Games Have in Common?
Words that typically come to mind when many people think of LiDAR data may be “large,” “cumbersome” and “difficult to visualize or manage.” Meanwhile video games are “fast,” “realistic” and “easy to navigate.” With expectations on the rise that all information should be available at the click of a mouse, it only makes sense that LiDAR users have lost patience with waiting to load, view and manipulate large point cloud data sets, and viewing only select points or working with a few tiles at a time isn’t acceptable. Today’s sophisticated users want all the data all the time, just like a gamer enjoying a non-stop virtual reality adventure on an Xbox One.
At the MAPPS Winter Conference held recently in La Jolla, Calif., Bill Emison, senior account manager at Merrick & Company, shared his thoughts on the topic of “Streaming LiDAR: the Intersection of Geospatial and Gaming.” Emison has many years of experience working with LiDAR data and has been instrumental in the development of the Merrick Advanced Remote Sensing (MARS) software suite, a production-grade Windows application designed to visualize, manage, process and analyze LiDAR point cloud data. Originally an internal tool created at Merrick to improve its efficiency and expand its capabilities on LiDAR projects, the MARS software is also available off-the-shelf.
“The bottom line is that clients want instant access and navigation capabilities for all geospatial data assets, no matter how large the model,” explained Emison in his presentation. “They also expect data to be stored in a compressed format to reduce the data footprint, but without a decompression lag. Users also expect to be able to see every pixel or point in a dataset in an uninterrupted stream of data from a network or via the internet. And no one wants to rely on expensive, high-end hardware to access their data.”
These lofty expectations are partially a result of improvements in sensor hardware that produce higher volume and better quality data. Video game technology, which allows for fully immersive data rendering and navigation at high speed, around 30–35 frames per second, is being adapted to improve the ability of the geospatial community to process, analyze and exploit large quantities of data.
The demand for better data management and visualization tools led Merrick to become a distributor for Euclideon Geoverse, a software solution that provides instantaneous data visualization access to 3D point cloud data, at full resolution, for any size or density. Euclideon, based in Queensland, Australia, is the creator of Unlimited Detail, a 3D graphics engine originally designed for video games. The technology utilizes a non-traditional indexing system to allow very rapid on-screen visualization.
“Geoverse leverages the Unlimited Detail technology, but for geospatial uses instead of gaming,” said Emison. “Data compression and internet streaming are important additional benefits when dealing with LiDAR point clouds and 3D models. The need for large amounts of RAM is reduced and multiple users are able to access the data on a regular laptop from wherever they are.”
In addition to standard LiDAR, other types of 3D data such as RGB infused LiDAR, 3D models from multi-angled oblique imagery, and colorized point clouds derived from stereo pairs using dense matching techniques can be streamed using Geoverse.
“Users want to integrate different types of geospatial data from multiple data sources, and manipulate the actual 3D data, not just the derivative products,” Emison continued. “This allows for more comprehensive query results and maximizes the value of the combined data sets.”
For more information: www.merrick.com/Geoverse