3D Beijing for the Olympics


Not going to the Olympics, but still want to look around the Bird’s Nest? Satellite-imagery supplier DigitalGlobe and GIS modeling and simulation company AEgis Technologies have teamed up with NBC to create a realistic 3D model of Beijing. The result is a 3D city that you can zoom-around in and a portal with an unfortunate URL: http://www.DigitalGlobe-AEgisTG.com.

What I found most interesting about this project was how they built the city. It was a combination of satellite imagery, modeling and an on-the-ground photographer. Using elevation data they created a wireframe of Beijing (first image below). They then overlaid DigitalGlobe’s imagery on top (second). Next step involved modeling the buildings (extruding) to create 3D representations of the right height (third). Finally they used over 4,000 photos of the city taken by an NBC photographer on the ground to create the final models (fourth). This all took “took only five weeks to create a 4,500 square kilometer model of the whole of Beijing using 0.61 meter (61 centimeter) imagery” (the lion’s share of that went to extruding buildings and building those final models).


At DigitalGlobe’s booth at the ESRI User Conference this week they were showing LightInt, their custom geobrowser. It allowed you to fly around the new 3D world. Perhaps most interesting was the ability to see the Line-of-Sight from any spot. I wasn’t able to find LightInt on their sites. If you want to explore the world download images, 3D PDFs (which I have found awkward to manipulate), and a Google Earth layer (KMZ file).

If you’re at the Olympics this won’t be as helpful on the ground as the Map Kiosks will be, but for a virtual tourist it is more advanced than City8’s Streetview portal (Radar post).

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