With three-dimensional maps being widely used these days, interest on how they are made has also peaked. A short answer would be that numerous digital map sources are processed, enhanced, and then combined to create the 3D models that are then made available for streaming on the web. However, the long answer is definitely a more detailed and a more complicated process.
A very important component of a 3D map is the 3D terrain. At WRLD, it is notable how the 3D terrain on the city level maps is quite different to how 3D terrains of other competitors look like. Most of the players in the field have opted to focus on maps that are based on satellite imagery and are more realistic-looking. The team at WRLD however, decided to take the stylised and more fun approach. This is also driven by the fact that the maps should be designed in a way where they can easily run even on mobile devices that are considered as low-end.
Perhaps one of the most important elements in the creation of a 3D terrain is the elevation data. Valleys and mountains are easily going to be reduced to just barely recognizable flatlands without elevation. Retaining the elevation features is crucial especially since many local hills in many city settings are considered as crucial landmarks not only for orientation, but also for navigation. The data for terrain elevation often comes in various forms. Most of the time though, they are presented as a heightmap in raster format. Remote sensing satellites are used to collect data for terrain elevation. They can come in the form of DEMs or digital elevation models, DSMs or digital surface models, as well as DTMs or digital terrain models.
Land use and land cover
The classification of the land also plays a crucial role in 3D terrain. Land use and land cover are often used as shapefiles in vector. Land cover has to do with the land’s physical classification as in the case of a herbaceous rangeland. Land use has something to do with the manner in which people are using the land as in the case of residential or urban spaces. The data for land use and land cover are then run through an algorithm that is responsible for assigning a simplified terrain code such as exposed rock, residential, or forest. The terrain code is what helps drive the aesthetics that the terrain is going to have as well as determine the placement of decorations and trees and other elements.
Combining land use and cover, and terrain elevation together results in the unique, fun, stylised maps that WRLD maps is known for. Hassan Sadiq Himex and his team at eegeo specializes is 3D Mapping as well as in Smart city IOT’s. Their roots in the gaming industry is now being used with big data and mobile technology to create accurate and aesthetic renditions of continents, countries, and cities in fun, fast, interactive 3D maps. More information about Hassan Sadiq Himex can be found here.