Browsed by
Category: planning

CityEngine 2018.0 beta and beyond (a sneak peek?) UPDATED

CityEngine 2018.0 beta and beyond (a sneak peek?) UPDATED

Is this technically a sneak peek? – probably not

NOTE: This post has been updated to include response from Pascal Mueller Director of Esri R&D Zurich and the creator of Esri CityEngine, scroll to the end to see his response.

CityEngine 2018.0 beta has been out for a while now and is pretty much over, I’ve been lucky enough to have been using it in anger for a bit too.   Building on the CityEngine 2017.1 release there are some small improvements, new CGA code as well as a couple of new features, but essentially this feels like a minor release which is not a bad thing.  Just because it’s minor doesn’t mean it doesn’t feel like progress , it will be well worth the update!   

The Confession

Firstly a confession, the title is a bit of a click-bait (hey if respectable news organisations can try it why can’t I?) I can’t show you a sneak peak this time or really talk about specifics, well because of um beta stuff and all that…. (last time I had a special agreement).  What I can tell you is that if you want to participate in the future CityEngine betas you can sign-up here https://earlyadopter.esri.com .  If you like CityEngine and are interested in where it’s going and of course helping out the team at Esri then I thoroughly recommend you sign up!

I can assure you that some bug fixes have happened and a couple of new features added which complement the analysis side of things.

Where next for CityEngine?

The real interesting thing here is how Esri CityEngine is moving very much in the direction of the urban design / geodesign space now.  As is much of Esri’s push at the moment, 3D is a natural fit for planners and planning departments.  The discussion on cities/urban (smart or otherwise) is a clear market strategy for Esri and the push towards BIM having been resolved through a ‘partnership’ with Autodesk fits nicely.   

Planning, designing and development must take the full picture into account. Create, visualize and share in 3D to make better designs and present your work more effectively. Source: Esri

This I guess poses a question for Esri, does it continue CityEngine long term with so many products that seem to tick the urban space box?  As someone who has trained many clients in CityEngine and offers consultancy services over the last 5 years I certainly have an interest in its future!  There are big questions of whether it will be just consumed by ArcGIS Pro or placed in some cloud container and interacted with via ArcGIS Online.   

I think (and I have no insider knowledge here) the answer is all of these things will happen, but also that CityEngine will continue to be a standalone product for the foreseeable future.   Esri is in the movie industry now and I don’t think it will want to leave that, but also CityEngine is a great design tool that fits Jack’s interest in urban and geodesign.

“is a simple-to-use 3D city editing and visualization tool” – “Build Flexible Scenarios Faster” – “Create Realistic Context”

The real worry for me is what form will CityEngine evolve into.  The marketing literature still talks of easy operation and high quality realistic outputs.   Sorry but it’s not easy to learn or use (from a typical planners perspective) and the high quality outputs don’t come instantly (unless you like Redlands building typologies!).   

Handles don’t help with the usability issues of CityEngine as they require coding to implement

CityEngine’s great power is it’s flexibility of format support and usage.  But it has fundamental technical issues/challenges with terrain and roads that need addressing.   Esri also needs to decide whether this is a tool for the drag and drop users among us, or some highly technical development environment for urban planning.   

One glimmer of light and a direction of travel is the ESRI.lib folder, promisingly for new users it shows a path of drag and drop produce something now.  Unfortunately this seems to have gone a little stale, anyone who does CGA coding in CityEngine knows organising and keeping up to date rule files is difficult especially if projects vary like ours do.    The ESRI.lib has some great rules I use over and over again, roads and trees, in fact the more generic the better!   Give me more of those tree assets!   These smaller rules enable a greater freedom and I can write rules that work with these easily because I know they are installed with every CityEngine workspace.   

In conclusion, and I’m not good at concluding thoughts so forgive me, CityEngine is here to stay but has some challenges to overcome.   Like all software it has to evolve as it’s users ask more of it.  Currently I worry that CityEngine as a tool is too technical for widespread adoption this means that businesses will be reluctant to invest in it if only a hand full of users (CityEngine professionals) are out there.   On the plus side CityEngine professionals like myself will probably have some consultancy work coming our way! 

Update and response from Esri Zurich’s R&D Director

(originally posted as comments on LinkedIn)

So I posted the link to this blog on LinkedIn and amazingly Pascal Muller (read a post I did called Life Changer to understand why I am honoured to get this) very kindly responded.  I have got his permission to post those comments here, these have been copied directly and no editing has been done although I have tried to keep the paragraph breaks.   What I now need to do is a follow up post to contemplating this response! 

 

Thanks Elliot, really great read!

I could answer some of the raised questions : ) hmm, maybe we should do an ‘ask me anything session’ here…

Two things:

(1) You are correct, not a ton of new features in this release. Reason is that we changed our release cycle this year and are releasing now 3 months earlier. As a result the time between CE 2017.1 and CE 2018.0 was much shorter. CE 2018.0 comes out next week and you can expect CE 2018.1 in September instead of November.

(2) Yes, CE is here to stay. There are no plans to discontinue it. In contrary: maybe you have heard about our new product initiative ArcGIS Urban which is basically a streamlined urban planning platform (on top of AGO) for the planning departments of cities. It will feature cool web apps/interfaces and it will also work great with CE. It’s all developed under the same roof here (also includes the 3D JS API 4.x team btw). In the ArcGIS Urban context, CE will (still) be required for the more advanced workflows such as for example Devin’s site plans, Bruno’s Masterplanner, or the various greenfield mega city projects of the HOKs and F+Ps.

ohh, and of course Blade Runner 3 will need these off-world cities Batty was talking about : )

Besides all this, CE continues to be one of Esri’s development platforms where bleeding edge technology gets applied before it goes mainstream, see for example the push on game engines (more about that later…).

Pretty exciting stuff and I am extremely happy that all the pieces fall into place finally, but we know that we have to keep working hard and improve things. Huge thanks for your continuous support and wise long-term thinking.

 
CityEngine 2017.0 (Beta) — sneak peek

CityEngine 2017.0 (Beta) — sneak peek

It’s that time of year when Esri start to roll out test releases of CityEngine yay!   Now that CityEngine 2017.0 has switched to a Beta release I can do some limited screenshots and discuss what’s coming in the new release.

it’s never been a better time to jump onboard the CityEngine

This is a big release and it’s never been a better time to jump onboard the CityEngine, procedural urban modelling, and geodesign train!   A refreshed interface, new scenario functions and an upgraded Dashboard for all your model metrics, to name a few improvements and additions.  For those who already use CityEngine on a daily basis, did I mention the new measurement tools, often rumoured to be ‘in development’ but now are actually here?!

It feels like they are actually now making a tool for urban planning professionals rather than the media industry.

Overall, this already as an early release is stable enough for me to do work.  The Esri R&D Zurich gang (and some in Redlands I guess) have done a really really great job of polishing this up and introducing long awaited features.  

CityEngine 2017.0 viewport, note refreshed icons and new direction compass in bottom right.

It feels like they are actually now making a tool for urban planning professionals rather than the media industry. At Garsdale Design we’re a big advocate of this Esri tool, its great for  bringing all that 2D and 3D together.  Helping you to make a cohesive analytical designs and iterating quickly through urban planning scenarios.  Did I mention we offer comprehensive training for CityEngine at our offices here in Cumbria or ‘on site’ at client offices and even at EsriUK’s offices at their headquarters? (apologies for the shameless plug but hey we have to pay the bills!)

A promising new Dashboard setup in CityEngine 2017.0!

Here is a couple of screenshots, there will be more to come but I can’ share with you everything all at once.

 

Area measurement tool in action in CityEngine 2017.0
Distance and Elevation measuring tool in action in CityEngine 2017.0

3D London Model Demo in ArcGISPro

3D London Model Demo in ArcGISPro

3D London Model Demo in ArcGISPro from Garsdale Design Limited on Vimeo.

Berlin joins the 3D OpenData club: 3D buildings released, in six formats

Berlin joins the 3D OpenData club: 3D buildings released, in six formats

berlin3D OpenData
mmmm 3D Buildings……

 

Have a look at what Berlin has done! Releasing 3D textured building data in six different formats!  I’m currently downloading some of the CityGML data (there’s a lot), but this along with the Toronto data set should give you some great real world data for playing with in CityEngine!   It looks like the data is available in the following formats:

Textured

  • CityGML
  • 3DS

Un-textured

  • CityGML
  • 3DS
  • 2D Shape
  • DXF
  • ESRI PGDB
  • 3D Shape
  • KMZ

The lack of choice in the textured version is a product I guess of the limitations in the fileformats but also processing time and file size.   When we do CityEngine projects we almost always use untextured buildings they are easier to download and view on other peoples PCs, and lets face it textures don’t always add anything to your scene.

 

Berlin plays a leading role throughout Europe in the digital economy – as of today a 3D city model of the German capital is available to the public as Open Data. Until now Internet users have had the opportunity to explore the city of Berlin online by using the Business Location Center’s realistic model from Berlin Partner for Business and Technology – now they can also use the data. Regardless of whether for scientists, game developers, city planners, architects or graphic designers, the large-scale model of Berlin is available as a free download.

You can read the press release here.

Better yet go and download the data here.

Sedbergh 3D meets CityEngine and LumenRT

Sedbergh 3D meets CityEngine and LumenRT

Sedbergh Demo Video Title

I’ve been busy this weekend making some of my old demo videos more ‘presentable’!  We (Garsdale Design Limited) purchased 3D Sedbergh off of CyberCity3D so that we had a test bed for 3D workflows and so we can go outside quickly and check the model ‘in the field’ as it were…

smart cities start with smart data

I personally wanted Sedbergh my home town in 3D as I’m quite frankly fed up of seeing cities get all the fun 3D data.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, forget smart cities, what about smart villages and towns?!

People really struggle with CityEngine and what it can do, this is understandable as CityEngine is a very versatile and technical software tool.   We often start with pretty imagery and nice 3D models but we embed intelligence, the underlying 2D GIS data we already knew about.   What we do (amongst other things) is create nice looking 3D basemaps and take your 2D data and make them attractive and importantly useful.

 

This Sedbergh model we’ve added some landuse data (polygons and points) these represent trees, Listed Building status and community buildings.   For planners and architects imagine visualising your plans for a site with this technology.   If you want to view and interact with a Sedbergh model (not quite the one on the video) you can do so here.

 

 

Toronto’s remarkable OpenData gesture: 3D buildings released with city-wide coverage.

Toronto’s remarkable OpenData gesture: 3D buildings released with city-wide coverage.

torontoDEMO_1
Toronto in 3D with Height Zoning map! You can tell it’s Toronto by that building in the bottom left…

 

Warning these opening lines are painful to read, at the time I thought I was being clever… apologies to all of Canada. 

O Canada (specifically Toronto)!
My wife’s home and native land!
True 3D love for all thy peoples to command.
With glowing heart we see 3D rise,
The True North (specifically Toronto) strong in 3D!
From far and wide,
O Canada, we create visualisations for thee.
OpenData keep your land glorious and in 3D
O Canada, we create VR for thee.
O Canada, we create AR for thee.

This is all to do with the news that the OpenData initiative in Toronto has gone and released a combination of 3D detailed and 3D massing models as OpenData.  What this seems to be is just the models with no attributes and in a variety of formats.   True OpenData advocates will no doubt be upset to read this is just ESRI Shapefile, Geodatabase file, MicroStation files, but honestly who cares?! Those lot are so technical they can open anything right? 

We already have height data in OpenStreetMap but this is different as it seems to be a combination of detailed ‘landmark’ buildings and block modelling (i.e. simple extrusions for the rest).  The result is a very good looking model.   This data will of interest to many types of people and industries, first person to make a Minecraft map out of it wins I guess…

Toronto, now in glorious 3D! Torontoist Article

Lovely wording to go with the release as well, what other planning department in the world would do this?  London couldn’t do it here as someone would shout “Ordnance Survey Licence” and suck all the fun out of the party… 

Exploring new ways to share information with each other is a cornerstone of improving the planning process. To do this it is essential to have city-wide data in accessible formats. A variety of 3D digital information and models exist but currently the data is not readily available to the general public. Providing a consistent city-wide 3D data source will link these digital city planning models and materials together and will allow us to imagine our city from different perspectives. The Open Date site will enable access to  to application developers, designers, urban planners and architects, and the public. Ideally this will enable the creation of a visual portal and access to a large collection of city building ideas.

The expected disclaimers apply to but who cares?! 

Further to the Open Government Licence, the Context Massing Model is being provided by City Planning on the OpenData website for information and illustrative purposes only. City Planning does not warranty the completeness, accuracy, content, or fitness for any precision purpose or use of context massing model for such purposes, nor are any such warranties to be implied or inferred with respect to Context Massing Model as furnished on the website.

City Planning and the City are not liable for any deficiencies in the completeness, accuracy, content, or fitness for any particular purpose or use of Context Massing Model, or applications utilizing Context Massing Model, provided by any third party.

A word of warning the files are large and it takes a while to load into some programs *cough ArcGIS* and importing all of it into CityEngine in one go should be interesting for you.  As is always the case careful data preparation is key!

I’m waiting for someone to put it in a Cesium demo next….

I’ve been having a go with the data already in CityEngine as you can see from the webscene shot at the top of this article.  Have a look at it in LumenRT too below.

torontoDEMO_2_LumenRT
Even when I model Toronto in 3D I can’t resist making the weather miserable and overcast…

 

So what are you waiting for? Go download it!

Back story – “Master Planning Cities in Iraq” or “Sedbergh, where is it?”

Back story – “Master Planning Cities in Iraq” or “Sedbergh, where is it?”

Nasiriyah Overview

Well this is a topical post and it’s not a coincidence! Some of you who know me, know that I’ve been working on a number of city related projects in southern Iraq. Those that don’t, now do…

I’ve already written a couple of times about our Iraq projects more as a mention rather than a full article (apart from this one here “An interesting day at the office GIS & masterplanning in Iraq”), but those who haven’t I’ll give you some background.

For me it is very rewarding work but sometimes it is ‘just another day at the office’ work.  I’ve realised that many people have found what we do and where we do it from to be an interesting story.

…sometimes it is ‘just another day at the office’ work

  1. A family firm
  2. City Master Plans
  3. Iraq Projects
  4. What’s it like working on a project based in Iraq?
  5. Consultation
  6. Training
  7. Location, location, location
  8. Why am I in the Guardian
  9. Sedbergh – Yorkshire Dales or Cumbria

Read More Read More

In case you missed it: I’m on the Guardian Cities blog

In case you missed it: I’m on the Guardian Cities blog

‘We can’t go to Iraq because it’s too dangerous’ ... Derrick and Elliot Hartley of Garsdale Design in Sedbergh. Photograph: Christopher Thomond for the Guardian
‘We can’t go to Iraq because it’s too dangerous’ … Derrick and Elliot Hartley of Garsdale Design in Sedbergh. Photograph: Christopher Thomond for the Guardian

A week or so back I met with Stuart Jeffries a writer for the Guardian to chat about our interesting in work in Iraq and our exciting future in 3D.   The result was what seems like a popular article in the Guardian Cities blog.

Whilst many people have quoted other passages one of my favourites is this:

To my eyes, there’s a touch of the pleasure of playing video games to Elliot’s work – certainly it looks like great fun.

He’s not wrong!

Elliot Hartley and Stuart Jeffries hanging out...
Me and Stuart Jeffries hanging out…

I’ve read a lot of the comments, both below the article and on twitter.  To be fair I think it’s been quite a positive response, clearly the article didn’t address everyone’s concerns though.  As to the usual trolling well that’s the internet.   I think I will write a response to the article and post it here in the coming days, more for my therapy than anything else.  Thank you to all those who retweeted the story and responded both positively and negatively to the story, I genuinely mean that.

You can read more here.