Procedural Partners with ESRI and NVIDIA on 3D Cities in the Cloud

Procedural's Rome Reborn
There's no place like Rome

GIS is one of the coolest technologies in the world. It could be argued that its base concept—tying visual data to information databases—is the forerunner of the grand PLM systems that are really still evolving and of BIM disciplines that are becoming part of the architectural industry.

Google has helped supercharge the GIS industry and is rapidly knitting the world up into a huge GIS system with Google Earth and Google Maps as a front end.

Yeah, monster companies like Google can create monster businesses, but don’t miss those companies headed by talented and imaginative programmers. Those are the companies putting the pieces together to build the future. Take Procedural, for instance. The company’s CityEngine has pioneered technology that will further supercharge GIS, mapping, and GPS.

CityEngine is a true child of SIGGRAPH. It was originally introduced in 2001 with a paper to the ACM by Yoav Parish, and Pascal Meuller. (For a look at the paper, go here.) In 2007, the company Procedural spun out of research think tank ETH in Zurich, Switzerland, headed by Mueller, Simon Schubiger, and Dominick Meuller. Their debut project was Rome Reborn, a re-creation of Ancient Rome. It was based on the idea that cities follow certain rules as they develop and grow. Procedural has been able to refine and test their ideas using all the accumulated data about cities maintained, in many cases, for centuries as maps, aerial surveys, plat data, and now, GIS data. Procedural’s CityEngine uses available data and generates more using procedural modeling algorithms to create 3D models of cities and towns.

This year at SIGGRAPH, Procedural will show off the results of its collaboration with ESRI for data and NVIDIA to generate 3D cities and access related data. ESRI is a leading GIS company, which is used extensively by governments, municipalities, etc., to maintain data including maps, plats, utility maps, topographic data, etc. There is a wealth of data maintained in the company’s software.

Procedural is a member of ESRI’s Business Partner Program as a Complementary Technology Provider. The two companies are teaming to offer 3D cities based on GIS data and procedural modeling. The collaboration was demonstrated at ESRI’s user conference in San Diego earlier in July. The companies demonstrated a pipeline for the creation, analysis, and visualization of photorealistic 3D cities from ESRI’s 3D ArcGIS data.

The models can be accessed with NVIDIA’s mental images RealityServer, so that anyone can interact with complex 3D cities using netbooks, tablets, and mobile phones (the first implementation is on the iPhone.)

At the San Diego conference the partner companies showed off their technology with a 3D visualiation of Rotterdam running in a browser on a Tegra-powered tablet.  You can see Rotterdam at this link.