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GIS Implementation

Barriers to Use

Gaming has provided a lot of high-quality systems for fast processing of data that can be used for 3-D visualization. “3-D graphics cards with graphics processing units are driving the gaming market for personal computers and have dramatically lowered the cost barrier for visualizing large amounts of imagery data,” reported Blier. “As well, the 3-D modeling tools that were developed for the gaming market and the 3-D artists themselves have made turning GIS data such as groundlevel geo-tagged photographs and satellite imagery into 3-D building models a very efficient process with a great deal of realism.” But industry experts contend that GIS products need to take Kristin Blier greater advantage of game engines and general gaming methodologies for the purpose of providing fast visualization of massive amounts of GIS content. From MetaVR’s perspective, game engines themselves have far less value in the GIS visualization market, as they tended to be developed around small ultra-realistic geotypical areas that do not scale for large round-earth simulation in the way MetaVR’s Metadesic 3-D terrain format does. “It is not unusual to see a gamebased simulation company tout their large terrain databases of 100 by 100 kilometers, or 1,000 by 1,000 kilometers, whereas our customers require whole country or continent 3-D terrain coverage for a given simulation training exercise,” Blier said. By using real world 3-D terrain and combining geospecific 3-D models of buildings and other structures, one can bring a city to life from within a geospecific simulated gaming environment. Combining real-world photographic imagery, such as aerial or satellite imagery, elevation data, and vector features with geosocial scenarios, such as urban warfare training, can prepare soldiers for possible real life combat situations. “Far too many gaming technologies are being used today only as a simple replacement for a keyboard, mouse, and/or monitor in a one-off and experimental way,” Tanner remarked.”For example, you can use an Xbox Kinect or Leap Motion to control Google Earth or use a game controller to do broad area search in ArcGIS, but so what? Does it fundamentally change the user experience? For the most part, you have just taken one input device and exchanged it for another.” Consequently, many believe that gaming technology just “isn’t there” yet. In other words, the fidelity of the current generation of devices like Leap, Kinect 2, or even display devices like the Oculus Rift just isn’t ripe for large scale, highly accurate deployments yet. “That’s why we base our reference system on higher-end Hollywood technology like Vicon motion capture devices and large triptych style displays,” said Tanner. "Unfortunately, these technologies are too expensive and in some cases too cumbersome for mass deployments. Where I think the gaming industry will help immensely is driving down the cost of advanced technology so that today’s $50,000 motion-capture system is tomorrow’s consumer-level device.”

Despite the fact that gaming holds great potential for military and intelligence uses, there are barriers such as limited awareness for the value that GIS offers in content creation for environment modeling. “It seems to me that the intelligence and military communities have enough funding, and can engage a large captive audience in their personnel,” commented Ola Ahlqvist, Ph.D., director of the Service-Learning Initiative and associate professor of geography at Ohio State University. “So in that way, they have access to some important factors that smaller game developers struggle with. But on the other hand, the plethora of indie developers and Andrew Tosh start-ups will be able to test far more ideas than any government body.” Ahlqvist argued that it would be productive if all that experimentation could be leveraged to address key needs of the GIS community. The problem remains, however, that although a lot of GIS work is performed at every level of the government, access to the most modern computer systems is not always available. “We need to educate our government users on why it is important to use systems that


Dave Husbands OGL

Photo by: Sgt. 1st Class Clinton Wood


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