Turning 3D Models Into Reality Using Web Browser-Based Software

April Flowers for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
In 2005, redevelopment of the London King’s Cross station and the nearby neighborhood was announced and was completed seven years later with a grand opening in 2012. The $667 million project was headed up by internationally recognized engineering firm Arup, famous for their work on the Sydney Opera House and the Allianz Arena in Munich.
Because the renewal included an area north of the station that included 50 new buildings, 2,000 new apartments, 20 new streets and ten new public squares, the greatest challenge became keeping all the project partners up-to-date with consistent data that could be visualized.
“What has already been standardized for product data is not yet common for all 3D data, and therefore takes a lot of effort,” explains Kristian Sons, PhD student at the faculty of Computer Graphics at Saarland University in Saarbruecken. Sons is also a researcher at the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI). To combat this issue, some companies maintain Excel spreadsheets manually, or develop custom 3D visualizations using computer game technologies.
Arup also had to find efficient ways to present the plan and its progress to investors and the general public in a way that was easy to understand. Only experts understand engineering drawings, and artistic impressions lack technical specifications. Public exhibitions are too costly and time consuming to be efficient.
The computer scientists from Saarbruecken worked with colleagues from University College London to create “XML3DRepo.” XML3DRepo combines two research projects—the description language XML3D, and 3DRepo, a version control system for 3D models. These two systems, partially sponsored by Arup, working together make it possible to save 3D objects, change them and administer those changes automatically.
The representation, provided by Son’s XML3D, is presented in a web browser.
“Through XML3D the complete model of King’s Cross can be loaded in a browser and displayed on any web-enabled device,” adds Philipp Slusallek, Professor of Computer Graphics at Saarland University who is also a scientific director at DFKI and the Intel Visual Computing Institute.
This becomes possible by enhancing the recent web standard HTML5 with elements necessary to describe text, images, and video on a website. XML3D also enhances animated and interactive objects.
“Thus, all 3D components are part of the HTML code which defines the website. It can be completed with further notes or planning details by any web developer,” explains Slusallek.
The engineers at Arup see future applications for the XML3DRepo technology, including the ability to simulate passenger flow and arrange the placement of CCTV cameras over the Internet, as well as being able to create realistic visualizations for the public.
The Foresight, Research & Innovation group at Arup writes on its website: “Built Environment Modeling (BEM) offers excellent opportunities to make meaningful stakeholder and public engagement not only possible but also cost effective.”
XML3DRepo will also feature Vertex Modelling, a London based company currently building the most accurate and detailed 3D rendering of London—which stretches across a variety of urban landscapes from the new skyscrapers in the City of London and Tower Bridge to residential houses in the boroughs of Chelsea and Knightsbridge along with a variety of London’s well known and iconic landmarks.
Sons plans to commercialize the software through a spin-off with his research partner Jozef Dobos from University College London.

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