Utilizing A Game Engine for Interactive 3D Topographic Data Visualization
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Developers have long used game engines for visualizing virtual worlds for players to explore. However, using real-world data in a game engine is always a challenging task, since most game engines have very little support for geospatial data. This paper presents our findings
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Developers have long used game engines for visualizing virtual worlds for players to explore. However, using real-world data in a game engine is always a challenging task, since most game engines have very little support for geospatial data. This paper presents our findings from exploring the Unity3D game engine for visualizing large-scale topographic data from mixed sources of terrestrial laser scanner models and topographic map data. Level of detail (LOD) 3 3D models of two buildings of the Universitas Gadjah Mada campus were obtained using a terrestrial laser scanner converted into the FBX format. Mapbox for Unity was used to provide georeferencing support for the 3D model. Unity3D also used road and place name layers via Mapbox for Unity based on OpenStreetMap (OSM) data. LOD1 buildings were modeled from topographic map data using Mapbox, and 3D models from the terrestrial laser scanner replaced two of these buildings. Building information and attributes, as well as visual appearances, were added to 3D features. The Unity3D game engine provides a rich set of libraries and assets for user interactions, and custom C# scripts were used to provide a bird’s-eye-view mode of 3D zoom, pan, and orbital display. In addition to basic 3D navigation tools, a first-person view of the scene was utilized to enable users to gain a walk-through experience while virtually inspecting the objects on the ground. For a fly-through experience, a drone view was offered to help users inspect objects from the air. The result was a multiplatform 3D visualization capable of displaying 3D models in LOD3, as well as providing user interfaces for exploring the scene using “on the ground” and “from the air” types of first person view interactions. Using the Unity3D game engine to visualize mixed sources of topographic data creates many opportunities to optimize large-scale topographic data use.