NEWS: City of Helsinki streams huge city dataset to mobile AR and VR

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Reality mesh model automatically optimised by Umbra technology so it can be viewed on phones, tablets, headsets and web browsers

The City of Helsinki, Finland is using Umbra technology to stream a massive 3D model of the entire city to web browsers and mobile devices so it can be viewed in real-time.

The reality mesh model of Helsinki is based on aerial photographs of the city taken in the summer of 2015. Helsinki generated an enormous point cloud, representing a 50 square kilometre area of the city, then processed that data into a 700 GB texture-mapped 3D mesh.

The city of Helsinki’s goal was to make this open dataset available for anyone to use, but the sheer size and complexity of the 3D data presented an insurmountable challenge. At that point the city spoke with Umbra about using its automated optimisation on the dataset to make it easily deliverable. Umbra’s fully-automated cloud platform optimised the mesh and now the entire dataset can be streamed to AR or VR-capable mobile platforms such as phones, tablets, headsets and even web browsers.

The Helsinki city model’s buildings were placed at the right elevation by transferring the buildings’ footprints from the city plan’s base map to the digital terrain model. The buildings were then converted into 3D models by combining the terrain model with a surface model that included the shapes of the buildings’ walls and roofs making a digital twin of the city.

“This was really a new and unique project collaboration between Umbra and the City of Helsinki – combining game engines and the city’s own technology into the next-generation of city modelling,” said Jarmo Suomisto, Project Manager at Helsingin City of Helsinki – 3D City Information Model. “This collaboration brings together so many stakeholders and technical standards, such as the open data policy and manufacturing technology, as well as the public and private sector. Through this cooperation, this whole project has been made possible and Helsinki appreciates Umbra’s willingness to develop new technologies that truly push the envelope.”

Based on a patented approach to 3D streaming, Umbra’s solution enables photo-realistic, multi-billion polygon models to be streamed and manipulated in real-time on mobile, untethered devices including phones, tablets, and VR and AR headsets. Umbra also makes it possible to integrate these highly-optimised models directly into commonly used 3D development environments like Unity or Unreal.

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“Umbra’s new cloud-based optimisation and delivery solution operates similar to Google Earth, but has the potential to render and stream significantly higher resolution 3D content, even down to sub-millimetre accuracy depending on the source scan,” said Shawn Adamek, Chief Strategy Officer at Umbra. “In addition, we are democratising city-scale 3D scanning, giving cities and developers the opportunity to take ownership of their own datasets, rather than using and licensing existing mapping data.”

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