ESRI buys Procedural City Engine

A very bold and exciting acquisition from GIS giant ESRI. They have bought Swiss firm, procedural, makers of Procedural City Engine.

This is a programme that generates a procedural city dynamically – it was used for example recently in the Movie Cars to create the fantasy versions of London, Paris and Monti Carlo.

CityEngine is a standalone software for 3D content creation, with rules-based tools for quick creation of 3D cities and buildings. With building footprints selected, you can apply a rule on how to extrude building heights. You can further improve the quality with further data on height and roof type of buildings. The addition of 3D streets is also automated based on street centerlines and street profile details.

Why would a GIS firm buy a product used in digital content creation. Esri has not been a company that has grown via acquisition in the past. The 3D space though has been one that they have wanted to improve upon for some time, it give them tools for 3D procedural planning.

With this acquisition, Esri enters the 3D design and city modeling space in force, further blurring the lines between what the CAD and GIS toolset are capable of in terms of city modelling, 3D creation, visualization, and 3D analysis.

One hopes that ESRI has big plans, making GIS a tool for procedural urban planning, like the interesting but ultimately flawed CityCAD. Im worried though that far too planners have the GIS and urban design skills to make full use of such a powerful addition to their toolkit.

ESRI as well will need a competitor to AutoCAD Civic 3D which is currently the dominant tool for road and platting/subdivision/utilities network design. It is really awkward switching between GIS/CAD and design software such as Illustrator. I hope ESRI realise the potential for an integrated urban toolkit that meets Jack Dangermont’s (the founder of ESRIs) vision of Geodesign.

Aerial Photography in a Suitcase

So cool, I want one, a personal UAV for aerial mapping, Gatewing it fits in a suitcase.

As it flies under 1000′ likely to be classed as a model aeroplane and so avoid many of the headaches of conventional aerial mapping, including cloud cover. Can cover about several sqkm on each flight so best for detailed imaging and DSM creation for major projects rather than surveying a whole district. watch the video its fascinating.  Especially the Fireball XL5 style launcher, the automated flightpath, and the automated stitching (could it remove the need for ERDAS imagine?).  5cm accuracy photos. 10c, accuracy in Z for DTM.  No uk dealers as yet though.  

Legal use of Google maps imagery in Arcgis

Big news

It works through Arc2Earths cloud service. Frankly I cant see anyone hosting their own GIS serviers within a year or two – it will all be done through the cloud.

What about OS derived data (i.e. all local government data) on a hosted service? Confusion still rein but with the data not hosted by google but by yourself through a third party could provider it would seem to reduce the issues. See the linked discussion on Ed Parsons blog.

GIS and Planning, stop flirting start s***ging

How sad am I – news of the day proposed features of Arcgis 10.1, at least being able to distribute advanced spatial analysis models through the cloud- yeah.

Am I talking past you???

A couple of years ago I had some interns from Kingston University. Kingston is top dog for GIS in the uk, planning well – could do better.

(the land of their Coombe Hill campus btw is worth an absolute fortune – worlds worst place for a campus, very good for russian billionaires)

What struck me was the planning students did not know the first thing about GIS. ‘Not enough time’

The two schools talked entirely past each other.

Do planners in the uk not know about the fundamental advances of the Florida School.

The founder of GIS Jack Dangermount, as a young landscape architect, was inspired by the great Ian Mc Harg to create computer systems to promote better environmental planning ‘ to design a better world’

What tools do the planners at various planning schools think they need to learn to design a better world?

GIS today is the equivalent of a scale rule – a tool all planners should be able to use without thinking.