OpenStreetMap Now in 3D

Mar 05, 2009

Users and programmers can now call up three-dimensional landscape models, map data and comprehensive metadata via the OpenStreetMap (OSM) project. The first phase is constructing an open standard-based 3D Geodata Infrastructure (GDI-3D) for entire Germany.

Under the leadership of the cartography research group in the Department of Geography at the University of Bonn, Germany, OSM 3D developers have collected a mass of data from sources such as the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM) of the German space agency DLR and made them available through free Geographic Information Systems (GIS) gateways such as the Web 3D Service (OGC W3DS, available as PDF). The server provides the prepared files as 3D topographic maps over the Web to clients that convert them to digital elevation models.

As Professor Alexander Zipf relates to Linux Magazine, "The visualization of the OSM data in 3D occurs in a web viewer (XNavigator) specially made to display W3DS data and was developed in Java. Unlike the server side rendered views typically seen in WebMapServices, a fully interactive and free client side navigation is possible with the streamed data. Because all data is transfered to and rendered in the client, an adequate Internet connection and a current, powerful computer with a graphics card is required."

According to Zipf, the motivation behind the project is to promote user-generated geographical data, improve 3D services and, above all, boost availability of free geodata structures. The interoperable platform should allow 3D modeling of regions as well as cities. Zipf provides an example of five-meter topographic models rendered with textured buildings imported from CityGML with over 6 million buildings in Heidelberg, making it so far the largest 3D city model.

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