Part of virtual Helsinki
Second Life was a fantasy world, a frontrunner in creating virtual worlds for human creativity to thrive. Modern technologies like augmented reality and mixed reality, however, are combining real and virtual elements to create exciting new possibilities for fun, work, and media.
A particularly impressive example was just announced today: virtual Helsinki.
50 square kilometers of Helsinki is now digitized into a 700 gigabyte texture-mapped 3D mesh that graphics optimization and AR cloud vendor Umbra can stream to AR and VR headsets ... or even your web browser.
That's impressive, but it's just the beginning. With a 3D model of 50 square kilometers of the city, gaming publishers could create almost-true-to-life playscapes for massively multiplayer games. Think Fortnite, but in a realistic, real-world settings.
Other cities may not be far behind.
“Umbra’s new cloud-based optimization 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-millimeter accuracy depending on the source scan,” Shawn Adamek, Chief Strategy Officer at Umbra, said in a statement. “In addition, we are democratizing 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.”
The 3D models are photorealistic, which means they are large files. Umbra's new technology, however, enables streaming of these "multi-billion polygon models" in real-time.
Critically, the resulting streams are capable of being integrated into Unity and Unreal, popular platforms for building 3D environments as well as games.
“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 modeling,” Jarmo Suomisto, a Helsinki project manager, said in a statement.
Ultimately, this is just the beginning.
Using technologies like this and Google Earth, it's likely that every square inch of the planet will be digitized in the coming decades. At which point we will likely roam our virtual earth with our virtual selves: avatars.