So it looks like CityEngine 2017.1 is soon to be released (it gets released for Partners a little earlier!) and wow have the team in Zurich and Redlands been hard at work! Of course there are two headline features
The amazing viewshed/view corridor analysis you can do against your models here (oh and the can be controlled by python too!). Unfortunately for now it looks like you can’t export the analysis, but it is a great tool for understanding building heights and volumes within CityEngine itself. I did a small sneak post a couple of weeks back which is here.
High-end architectural visualisations with Unreal Engine, basically we have a new exporter function for Unreal Engine based on the Datasmith SDK. This seems to replace the FBX workflow and allows a more efficient way of getting your cities into Unreal. It looks like its capable of tens of millions of polygons!
It looks like the Esri team are making good on their promise of making CityEngine into a true geodesign tool of great value to Urban Planners. There are a lot of enhancements and bug fixes
Among the new CGA functions I think the interesting on of mention is the new annotation attribute @Enum and a change in how @Range works we can also restrict the values (so you can’t as a user override these values in the inspector!). This allows for a more defined set of inputs and makes the inspector much easier to read and interact with. @Angle, @Distance and @Percent do what they say and I think go some way in making people who author rule files (like myself) make easier to use tools!
One improvement I’ve noticed is that that the Scene Layer Package export function has been improved to make it what Esri call ‘Smart Mapping-ready’ basically it means attribute information is written to the scene layer package which makes it nice and easy to change colour by values in the online scene viewer.
A big thank you to the Esri engineer who fixed the bug in the FGDB export that meant previously imported feature classes retained memory of their old names when exporting!
Finally a reminder this release CEJ files (CityEngine Scenes) are not backward compatible with 2017.0! Take my advice, use a new workspace directory per CityEngine release and copy old project to the new workspace so you don’t run the risk of damaging your work!!
Some of you may have noticed a post I shared on LinkedIn by a gentleman called Ryan Johnston from the Transport Systems Catapult (based in Milton Keynes) coming to our office here in Cumbria last Friday.
Getting the train this morning to Cumbria for some collaborative work with Elliot Hartley#Garsdaledesign . Looking at how City Engine can help create fast environments for testing and stimulation.
Ryan was here to gain insight into how we here at Garsdale Design build virtual 3D environments from GIS data. We use the Esri platform to do this and one of the key tools Ryan was here to get an understanding of was CityEngine and ArcGISPro. As you all should know by now is that at Garsdale Design is well known for our CityEngine and 3D GIS expertise!
This is part of the Peterborough way finding research project for the partially sighted. Helping to understand how spatially correct 3d urban models and VR technology; can help the partially sighted to navigate from the train station to the RNIB Peterborough head office.
Ryan’s visit was in relation to a way-finding project for the partially sighted in Peterborough, home to the head office of the Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB). Here the TSC has brought together a range of industry professionals (such as Garsdale Design and MK Surveys) to create a virtual environment to test various sensors, beacons and navigation methods around Peterborough town centre and the offices of the RNIB. As this project progresses more information will be posted on the Transport Systems Catapult website.
Ryan was here the whole day (interrupted only by a nice lunch at the Three Hares Cafe), and we discussed various project workflows, for example making all that nice Ordnance Survey MasterMap data 3D, as well as managing terrain data. We looked at game engine workflows and the exciting possibilities of Unity as well as the new datasmith tool for Unreal. Of course once we have a dynamic and flexible (i.e. easy to modify) 3D model we also need to look at analytical tools to help in the process of assessing various ‘way marking’ technologies. Whilst the discussion was focused on the Peterborough project we’re happy to report that many of the issues we were addressing also would come in use for future projects too.
At the end of the day Ryan and I were able to make a quick mock-up of part of Peterborough to identify where CityEngine tools may help create this virtual environment. We also looked at the 2017.1 beta version with viewsheds which could be useful in this particular project.
We had a great day and it was fantastic to work with Ryan, I’m pretty sure we could have kept going for a lot longer, but sadly a work day must come to an end sometime!
You may have seen that I was out in the United Arab Emirates a couple of weeks back. I was there for two reasons, one to conduct a CityEngine training session for a number of GISTEC clients (we do this training here in the UK either with EsriUK or at our offices in Sedbergh as well as worldwide). As always training often turns to bespoke advice and discussions around workflows and use cases.
Basically, most things that a client asks for with 3D GIS can be done, you just to have a clear idea of what you want (oh and a budget!), technology (hardware and software) has progressed so much recently that most clients are now spoilt for choice.
Want a smart city? Well you may need a 3D basemap. Do you have any sensor data? If so what’s the quality? The answer invariably to all these questions and more is “it depends”. That’s why on the 20th of September I went to help present at our friends and partners GISTEC 3D GIS workshop/seminar event in the Roda Al Bustan in Dubai.
As a new format for GISTEC we were all excited and apprehensive to see how invited guests and clients would respond. We shouldn’t have been nervous as the response was overwhelmingly positive. The sessions allowed people to find out what was possible with particular aspects of the Esri platform and where they could join up some of those dots. My discussion table didn’t just talking about CityEngine. We talked about data acquisition (from UAVs for example, in fact I used demo data from the UAV table), about smart cities and story maps. The day was designed to find out more about everyone’s workflows and problems as well as informing and discussing potential solutions.
The format was informal and less about a sales pitch and more about discussion (no one likes presentations which basically say ‘buy me’). We had divided the session up into tables and each table had a theme to talk about (mine was Geodesign and Urban Planning of course!). The table’s moderators also used flipcharts and post-it notes to engage with the attendees and come up with problems and solutions around each table’s theme. This meant that at the end of the day each table had gained insight into some of the issues surrounding 3D GIS (in for example designing cities) but also discussed potential solutions and workflows (as well as software) to help. These flipcharts and notes would then be shared with the attendees as well (not just the table group but everyone).
Each table’s theme discussion was led by an expert in their field and as you can see we had some amazing people:
Smart Cities and IoT Solutions – Smart City and IoT
Andrew Rippon – NXN
Getting 3D-GIS Data from 3D-CAD – BIM to GIS
Nandakumar Menon – GISTEC
Data Capturing and 3D Data Preparation from Drone – Working with Drones Giuseppe Catania – b-link
Texturing Your Landscape and Building VR Solution – VR Solutions
Dileep Verma – Cirqus
Building Different 3D Applications – Working with Story Maps
The largest group of attendees had come to hear about smart cities and the ‘Internet of Things’ from Andrew Rippon of NXN (formerly Nexgen group) from what I heard (and saw a little of) this was a well received talk and discussion on some issues and challenges as well as the amazing solutions NXN are implementing for smart city projects.
The day ended with a quick panel summary of each tables discussions and a question and answer session. Questions about workflows and interest in what was possible seemed to be the main concerns. All in all I really enjoyed the day with GISTEC and the attendees I think I may have learnt more off of them then they did of me!
Well I’ve been a bit busy as of late working on some exciting 3D projects and attending some really interesting conferences! One day I’ll get around to writing about them. 🙂 There is so much going on in the 3D GIS space that it can feel a bit too much. Fortunately that’s where our expertise lies, making sense of it all and helping clients.
I’ve made some time though to talk a little bit about the new CityEngine 2017.1 Beta that I’ve just installed. But before I continue this is a sneak peek at a beta release some or all features I talk about maybe removed at the last minute, don’t plan your future projects based on this blog. What I would say is yet again, if you are thinking of working in 3D and the Esri platform, CityEngine is worth a look, especially for planners.
The team in Zurich seem to be hell bent on adding new features quickly now especially for the Urban Planners among us! I wanted to show you a very cool new feature/toolset called viewsheds. This gives you live (see animated GIFS below) views of viewshed domes or corridors in the CityEngine viewport, giving you an indication of what you would see from particular vantage points. You can change the colour for each area too (colour visible by all, colour visible by one, colour not visible by any) and place multiple viewsheds.
There are some usual bug fixes and a few new rule functions I can see coming up (I may write about these later), and there is a facility to import and synchronise feature layers hosted in ArcGIS Online! This brings some potentially exciting opportunities and workflows but as a new feature I think as usual this should be used with caution, but the direction of travel here is interesting.
While you’re here it would be good to know what you think of CityEngine and/or it’s direction into Geodesign and planning. Add a comment to continue/start the discussion (all comments reviewed/moderated).
Okay so this came sooner than I thought it would and just in time for the Esri UC in San Diego next week!
If you are a CityEngine user this is a very good release with key improvements that will make our lives easier when working on projects. If you’re thinking about working with CityEngine for the first time this is a good release to come in on, and you can come to us for one-to-one training to get you started!
CityEngine 2017.0 has now been released and you can download it from your ‘My Esri‘ area, alternately you can grab a 30-day free trial here.
Last Tuesday (16th of May 2017) was the much-anticipated yearly geospatial event from Esri UK. Their Annual Conference has gone from strength to strength and the venue has been at capacity for the last two years now.
I love the EsriUK conference and being based in Cumbria having an event where I can get to see all the people we work with in one location is fantastic (although I quite enjoyed EsriUK’s Perth event too!). It used to be I went for the presentations I now go to have meetings and keep the personal connections I’ve developed through social media going.
The opening plenary was interesting and focused (quite rightly) on the significant achievements Esri have made in developing their platform. I cannot comprehend how complex the process is of developing a cloud presence and slowly (it feels slow to me at least in regards to stability & memory issues) developing the new ArcGISPro application whilst still maintaining the existing and well used product suite of ArcMap, ArcGlobe, and ArcScene. I guess that’s what they use our licence and maintenance fees for!
What I noticed this time was what I have been saying for a while and told people about back in 2009 (when I started using CityEngine): Esri needs to be invested deeply in 3D to compete in the new and merging industries of ‘smart cities’ and ‘BIM’. All their competitors are there and coming for the GIS users too. Fortunately is Esri doing this now.
EsriUK’s live demo this year was walking around with a GeoSlam device getting a laser scan of the venue, to fly around and measure in ArcGISPro. Unfortunately I felt this demo was a little limited in scope this year. We’ve worked with point clouds in ArcGISPro and whilst good there are still some issues so perhaps that’s why it was not as ‘wow!’ for me.
Looking at all their applications, it is truly crazy how many 3D capable products Esri have developed. Yet amongst all these amazing tools, all too often, I am still meeting people who wonder what they’re going to do with these 3D technologies….
The obvious answer is ‘well first you need 3D data’, and that’s what Garsdale Design’s new project, our GD3D brand, is all about. Acquiring 3D is still like acquiring satellite data in the early days, difficult and expensive, however I will write more on this soon because it doesn’t have to be.
Post plenary there was plenty of people to talk too, but I did manage to get to see a few presentations:
Mapping London’s 2050 Infrastructure Growth
Dr Larissa R Suzuki gave a great presentation into the challenges Transport for London were facing managing development and maintenance of their infrastructure. The mapping systems they are implementing to identify what activity is taking place in the same location (think development and road works etc..) at the same time are fantastically useful. Let’s hope this kind of technology use gets adopted nationally not just per authority.
A journey through the airport
The Manchester Airport Group have a place in my heart, as I am a big fan of Manchester Airport to be honest. Small-ish airport in the scheme of things owned by local authorities but punching well above its weight in terms of the region it serves and the places you can fly to. I can get a train direct from Oxenholme straight to Manchester Airport and be in Dubai or major hubs in the USA really quickly. Their talk by Vickie Withnell was very interesting, showing us a 3D animation of the next phase of expansion of Manchester Airport basically 4D or construction management. As one commentator on the Esri AC app put it a “video’ gantt chart”. Obviously being able to manage data through time and integrate your process with the planning and consultation elements of their business has paid dividends. Vickie should have received a stand ovation for saying that their planning application for a new arrivals terminal at Stansted only took 13 weeks (supposed target processing time for major planning applications), top it all off they only had one objection. Any planner (private or public) in the room I am sure was immediately feeling completely in awe.
SWEET, simplicity and GeoDesign
Charles Kennelly CTO of EsriUK was in top form clearly presenting one of his technology passions ‘geodesign’. The application he demo’d was called ‘SWEET’ and his message was very simple really. Sometimes making tools that are simple to use for defined purposes really do make sense. The web application he demo showed off how you could program rules in to editing tools that automatically clipped polygons and stopped you editing outside areas. Basically, taking away that process us GIS professionals always have to do when receiving someone else’s data which is cleaning up and fixing geometries (like slithers). In the demo web application you could plot away and be sure that the data you create was clean and clipped to your areas properly.
The Customer Success Awards were back again (we won one last year hurrah!) and what a great series of entries, I am glad they keeping this going. It is always nice to be recognised for hardwork and clearly the winners and nominees have been working hard!.
Daniel Raven-Ellison a self-confessed ‘Guerilla Geographer’ (don’t cringe) gave a very impassioned presentation focusing on his campaign to make London a National Park City . Always the cynic living in Northern England I feel uncomfortable giving London more designations and status. But he did give a compelling argument but perhaps instead of a National Park City a focus on making all cities green and vibrant as he wants to make London would be better? Whatever your opinion he is a very passionate and good speaker with important things to say about our cities and environment. I think we ignore him at our peril.
The future look at the platform was interesting the Esri inc team were represented with Chris Andrews and EsriUK by Charles Kennelly the platform is scaling well and 3D is a big part of this.
Charles also treated us to an experimental map where the cartography was enhanced or augmented with sounds. So moving the mouse over particular elements of a map gave a different noise. I think this kind of approach will be ever more important when augmented and mixed reality technologies become main stream. Not everything in GIS should be visual was my ‘take away’.
As usual I have skimmed over details at a ramble for this blog post. As a company we had a great day talking about our new GD3D® brand and our data service for the Esri platform. It strikes me that people still are sitting in silos of data though, hesitating to be the first to break out and hindered by restrictive licencing and pricing. I guess that is often the nature of professions.
Personally, I met lots of new and interesting people, so thank you if you talked to me and sorry if I don’t remember your name next we meet, it’s not personal! I’m just not very good at remembering faces.
We gave out lots of badges and stickers which made travelling home lighter and easier too. Coming up next for us, my colleague Nicholas Duggan will be attending the Geobusiness conference in London. I have now booked my flights to San Diego for this year’s Esri UC I’ll be attending some 3D sessions there but am also eager to meet up and chat with anyone interested in 3D building data for the Esri platform and of course Esri CityEngine training and services.
Our presentation on Big Data!
I’ll be doing another post on our presentation at the Esri UK Annual Conference entitled “Big data! Offshore to onshore: Streaming 3D cities and point clouds” shortly…. 🙂
People want and expect their 3D modelled urban environments to be very high quality. Unfortunately, whilst most of us here work with 3D. We know that without significant investment of time and money we are not going to achieve such polish easily.
A great big thank you to Ryan Johnston for inviting us and being such a great host! We greatly enjoyed the event.
Small areas with a lot of detail or large areas with a little detail? Despite digital 3D urban models being seen everywhere from games, to movies, planning/architectural visualisations, and applications like Google Earth. Creating 3D urban models with a geospatial element is not as easy as some might think. The industry is always trying to answer the question with things like meshes, point clouds and gamification but is it working?
Firstly, a detailed understanding of what is meant by a 3D model is required. levels of detail (LOD) and accuracy need to be assessed against levels of effort as well as the equipment and method of capture available, with the end user being always in mind. The ability to bring geographic datasets together with fictional datasets poses serious questions (legal, technical and ethical) for those in the 3D urban modelling business as the line between a scientific decisions blurs with the artistic and aesthetic choices we make.