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Virtual Terrain Generation with MetaVR Terrain Tools for Esri ArcGIS

MetaVR's suite of terrain generation tools complements its PC image generator Virtual Reality Scene Generator™ (VRSG™). MetaVR™ Terrain Tools extension for Esri ArcGIS for Desktop leverages the significant infrastructure of Geographical Information Systems (GIS) technology and enables users to turn their geospatial data into real-time 3D terrain from within their GIS software.

2D terrain imagery of a section of Kismaayo, Somilia, shown in MetaVR Terrain Tools for ArcGIS, and the resulting Kismayo, Somalia, 3D terrain in MetaVR VRSG.
2D terrain imagery of a section of Kismayo, Somalia, shown in MetaVR Terrain Tools for ArcGIS, and the resulting compiled Kismayo, Somalia, 3D terrain in VRSG.

The port area of Kismaayo, Somalia, shown in MetaVR Terrain Tools for ArcGIS, and the resulting 3D terrain of the port area in MetaVR VRSG.
The port area of Kismayo, Somalia, shown in MetaVR Terrain Tools for ArcGIS, and the resulting textured and wireframe views of the compiled 3D terrain of the port area in VRSG. The 3D geospecific and geolocated models were built externally in Luxology Modo and Autodesk 3ds Max. Then they were placed on the terrain with VRSG Scenario Editor as part of the terrain workflow.

Building on the industry standard ArcGIS platform, MetaVR's Terrain Tools extension combines powerful 3D terrain building functionality with an accessible and intuitive interface that can be easily understood by anyone with a comprehension of geospatial data concepts and some experience with ArcGIS. With this product, MetaVR can focus on the terrain composition while taking advantage of the significant GIS functionality provided by the Esri product line.

The following video gives a 7 minute overview of Terrain Tools:


 Core features

In addition to creating real-time terrain for rendering in MetaVR VRSG, the key features of MetaVR Terrain Tools for ArcGIS include:

  • Live compositing display of raster imagery and elevation data in a WYSIWYG interface.
  • Support for any format of source data supported by ArcGIS.
  • Raster display capabilities such as pan-sharpening, custom band order, multiple re-sampling techniques, histogram stretching, contrast and brightness control, masking, and edge blending.
  • Ability to supply vector data to define linear and areal features. Generate road networks, fine tune elevation with polygon or point data, create extruded buildings, or create crisp boundaries between compiled terrain and VRSG-generated water representation.
  • Distributed build system, which allows asynchronous build processes across multiple machines on a local network to collaborate in building a set of tiles. The build can be monitored and administered from any machine on the local network using adynamic browser-based user interface Optionally, use ArcGIS Engine for lower-cost headless build machines.
  • Renders in VRSG with external 3D content built upstream as part of the art pipeline.
  • Support for the Navy's Portable Source Initiative (N-PSI) standard for terrain database source data.

All features integrate seamlessly with the industry’s leading GIS platform.

MetaVR Terrain Tools for Esri ArcGIS.
The user interface of MetaVR’s Build Selected Tiles terrain tool extension to Esri ArcGIS, and the real-time aerial view in VRSG of the resulting 3D terrain. The 2D terrain imagery and resulting terrain is of Vermont, and the area selected is for building terrain tiles of the area around the Burlington International Airport, Burlington, VT, with Lake Champlain visible in the background. This Vermont terrain was generated in MetaVR's geocentric Metadesic (MDS) format. The 3D geospecific models on the terrain were built externally in Autodesk 3ds Max as part of the art pipeline.

 Metadesic terrain format

MetaVR's Metadesic (MDS) terrain format is ideal for aerial applications, which require vast areas of terrain. Terrain Tools is currently used to build terrain for many manned and unmanned aircraft simulators. The round-earth terrain format has many benefits; most importantly, the terrain models the earth to a high degree of accuracy over its entire surface in contrast to a local approximation that is only valid over a relatively small range. This level of accuracy is vital for targeting applications and determining intervisibility.

Another critical advantage of the Metadesic format is its segmented database representation. Terrain built in Metadesic format is comprised of relatively small, self-contained terrain tiles that fit together seamlessly but can be built separately. This property enables a high degree of parallel processing of terrain since many different machines licensed for ArcGIS and Terrain Tools can build tiles for a given area at the same time.

MetaVR's VRSG real-time 3D views of the shoreline of a jetty on the port of Kismayo, Somalia, featuring VRSG's new 3D ocean simulation with bathemetry support. This scene is part of the Kismayo virtual terrain, which was built with Terrain Tools.
MetaVR VRSG real-time 3D view of virtual Kismayo port shoreline.
zoom

Within the ArcGIS interface, coastlines and road networks can be digitized and cut out from geospecific imagery using Terrain Tools. At runtime, VRSG generates multi-textured, animated, normal-mapped water surfaces in the regions identified as water, or blends road textures with underlying imagery. The terrain tiles seamlessly match complete water tiles generated by VRSG.

In the example above, MetaVR Terrain Tools was used to create the terrain mesh of the high resolution representation of the shoreline of the jetty off the coast of Kismayo, Somalia. The terrain tiles of the shoreline seamlessly meet water tiles generated by VRSG.

 What's new in version 1.3

MetaVR Terrain Tools version 1.3 introduces four new terrain feature types:

  • Microtexture polygon feature type, for adding geotypical ground textures.
  • Building polygon feature type, for quickly creating simple geotypical buildings and other structures by extruding them from imagery footprints and specifying their textures.
  • Cultural light polyline feature type, for placing light points along the polyline with attributes for color, size, and spacing.
  • Wall polyline feature type, for adding textured 2D extruded geometry features to the terrain, such as wall and fences.

Version 1.3 also introduces a new capability for generating instanced cultural features for creating a large homogenous area of culture (trees, vegetation, rocks, and so on) which is optimized for VRSG, a new capability for generating wire geometry for power lines that connect to utility pole models, and a new terrain feature definition user interface that eliminates the need to edit the feature definition table directly to manually add new columns for attributes of each terrain feature type.

Example of instanced tree models. Example of instanced tree models.

Example of powerlines and utility poles.
Example of power lines and utility poles.

Terrain Tools supports all the advancements in the latest ArcGIS for Desktop version 10.5.

 Requirements

MetaVR Terrain Tools for Esri ArcGIS version 1.3 requires any license level of ArcGIS for Desktop or ArcGIS Engine 10.2 and above (Basic, Standard, Advanced) with the ArcGIS 3D Analyst extension.

Note: There is currently no plan to support ArcGIS Pro, as it does not contain the 3D APIs required for Terrain Tools. ArcGIS Desktop continues to evolve and will be supported by Esri for many years to come.

Terrain generated with Terrain Tools can be visualized in VRSG version 5.11 or higher. System requirements include Microsoft Windows 10 64-bit operating system.

Additional terrain-building machines can now use either ArcGIS for Desktop or ArcGIS Engine version 10.2 and above. This flexible licensing for additional terrain-building machines is attractive because of the significantly lower cost of an ArcGIS Engine license compared to that of ArcGIS for Desktop. Note that at least one full license of ArcGIS for Desktop is required to run Terrain Tools. In addition, Terrain Tools must be installed on each machine on which terrain will be built.

Esri ArcGIS Desktop 10.2 can be purchased directly from Esri. If you plan to purchase ArcGIS solely for using Terrain Tools, ArcGIS for Desktop Basic will be sufficient for running Terrain Tools. (The additional features in ArcGIS for Desktop Standard and Advanced are not required for Terrain Tools.)

MetaVR is a member of the Esri Partner Network.

You can order the MetaVR Terrain Tools for ArcGIS directly from MetaVR.

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