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3D Visualization Comes Alive [Holograms]

Zebra Imaging Produces Printable 3D HologramsThree-dimensional space is a geometric model of the physical universe in which we live, work and are now entertained. Television manufacturers are quickly working to release the 3D-capable broadcasts that cable and satellite providers are already offering. For example, the 2010 Masters will be broadcast live in 3D on CBS, April 8-11. 3D movies used to be a rarity, but are now found weekly in theaters across the nation.

Physical 3D models have been used for decades to visualize City improvements in need of public approval and to help architects portray their ideas to the owner. Topographic contour maps have been used to visualize ground terrain in a two-dimensional environment for drainage studies, military strategy planning, city planning, etc. These models are often costly and take too long to construct.

Printed renderings are more easy and cost-effective to produce, but they lack the interactiveness of even the physical models.

The recent developments and adoption of Building Information Models (BIM) and intelligent 3D models have enabled architects and engineers to reach beyond just building a “pretty picture”. These “intelligent” models serve as a collaboration tool for designers working on different aspects of the project to visualize their designs and avoid any clashes during construction. Once the project is complete, this data can be used for detailed asset/facility life-cycle management.

The industry is now relying more on the virtual 3D models for design and construction and less on the typical 2D plans. However, we are still faced with the dilemma of having a working document that we can physically touch that represents the latest design. If only there was a way to have the best of both worlds – a 3D model on a 2D printed plan.

A while back I stumbled across Zebra Imaging through Twitter and after spending a day at their facility in Austin, Texas, I believe our industry is about to change. They produce full-color printed holographic images that can be used for numerous visualization applications including military planning project and concept demonstrations for investors.

3D is now a standard output for most CAD systems, and is commonly used for viewing terrain data and built environments. ZEBRA Imaging offers a product that allows you to view this data from more than one angle, without having to redraw the images on a computer screen. ZEBRA Imaging provides fairly large – 600mm by 800mm – flat media holograms. They are portable and can be created using a number of data sources; most importantly, they don’t require special tools (e.g. glasses or scopes) for viewing.

The holograms are used in a variety of ways, including military visualizations, project presentations and concept demonstrations for investors.

Monochrome view of New Orleans showing the Superdome.


From ZEBRA Imaging literature:

  • 3-D perspectives are visible horizontally and vertically; one can look over and under the image and from side to side without glasses or goggles
  • Wide angle of view – horizontal viewing is over 95 degrees, allowing many people to walk around and view an image simultaneously
  • Allows for unlimited size while maintaining the integrity of the image
  • Images are projected several feet in front of or behind the hologram and appear to be floating in air
  • Compact and portable – images are flat or flexible plastic panels that can be stored and shipped easily, taking up very little space
  • Any 3-D volumetric data set from any source may be used

ZEBRA’s capabilities also include the ability to produce holograms that change depending upon the viewer’s angle. This is beneficial when attempting to depict varying levels of a building, terrain, etc. It is also helpful when trying to portray a particular image before and after an event. For example, Zebra created 3D visual of the Lower Manhattan skyline before and after 9-11. From one angle, a view of the Twin Towers before the disaster can be seen and from another, the rubble in the aftermath.

Before 9-11. (Click for larger image)
After 9-11. (Click for larger image)

The four images below were used at the GEOINT Symposium to show the same corner at four different time periods. Each time the corner is viewed, it shows a different aspect of the structure.

(Click for larger image)
ZEBRA Imaging showed this example of generals looking at an urban area. The entire image is a color hologram – including the generals, the people in the background, etc.

Viewing a Zebra Imaging hologram is a viewing experience that is impossible to appreciate with the 2D limitations of a computer screen. The videos below give you an opportunity to understand how the real-world Zebra holograms appear through the lens of a 2D video camera.

Overview Video
A 2 minute overview showing a wide array of sample 3D Zebra holographic images
Windows Media – 5mbQuicktime – 24mb

Monochrome
A 15 second video that shows several monochrome samples (includes holograms not found in the Overview video)
Windows Media – 560kQuicktime – 3mb

Architecture

15 second video that shows several architectural holographic image samples
Windows Media – 640kQuicktime – 4mb

Automotive & Manufacturing

A 57 second video that shows automotive and other manufacturing 3D Zebra holographic images. Contains similar footage as the overview with a few more examples
Windows Media – 2.3mbQuicktime – 15mb

Industrial Design
30 second video containing several samples of industrial design holographic images
Windows Media – 1.2mbQuicktime – 5.4mb

This image shows an interesting real-world application for the Ford Motor Company.

The first movie shows an interesting real-world application for the Ford Motor Company. This image shows the interior layout of a specific car.

A map is a model of reality that allows you to see, understand and analyze geography. ZEBRA Imaging’s offerings extend this model in a most interesting and utilitarian way.

Michael Klug, CTO of Zebra Imaging discusses the technology at Autodesk University 2009:

SPAR 2010 Laser Scanning Conference Summary

Due to inclement weather in Washington D.C., I was not able to make it back to The Woodlands in time for the first day of SPAR 2010, but I sure do have a lot to share with you after day 2. Below are some highlights from the well-attended event:

Zebra Imaging – if you did not have a chance to see them in person, be sure to check out their website because they have developed a truly remarkable product. Zebra Imaging makes digitally-mastered, actively-animated, true-color, full-parallax holographic images. These holographic images are available in full color, or in monochrome (green). Zebra’s holographic images can be scaled to any size, large or small. By tiling together multiple tiles, it is possible to create large city maps, full sized cars, humans, and machinery. Check out a sample video of their technology here. Look for a full post about this technology after the conference.

Trimble Indoor Mobile Mapping Solution (TIMMS) – Simply put, this technology is full-dome mobile scanning for interior applications. The technology uses the same IMU-type technology as aerial LiDAR and mobile mapping, but without the GPS. You simply push a cart around a facility to capture detailed, accurate point cloud data without the hassles of registration. Monthly rentals are available or you can purchase the technology.

Z+F Camera Attachment for the Imager 5006iZ+F showed off a new digital camera attachment for the Imager 5006i/Leica HDS-6100. The camera mounts on top of the unit and integrates with the point cloud data through the use of their proprietary software. There are batch capabilities that allow application of the RGB values to be applied to multiple scans at once. These values are appended to the ZFS files without affecting the intensity values. It works flawlessly with the HDS6100, however, a hardware upgrade is needed in order to work with the HDS6000. The cameras can be purchased or leased from Z+F directly.

Velodyne Lidar Inc. showed off their real-time 360-degree LiDAR sensor. Velodyne’s sensor was used on the Radiohead House of Cards music video directed by James Frost and Zoo Film Productions for which I recently had the privilege of working with on a new project. More on that once the project has been released… it is big, real big! In the meantime, check out the results from the Radiohead project. It is guaranteed to amaze you!

Deke Smith gave a great presentation on the buildingSMART alliance and the National BIM Standard. Join at http://www.buildingsmartalliance.org. Download the Whole Building Design Guide at http://www.wbdg.org.

I regret that I was not able to attend the first day, but it has been great to see colleagues I have not seen in a while and catch up on some new technology. Look for more info to be posted tomorrow. Follow us on Twitter for real-time updates from the conference.

Too-cool technologies: Game Engine-quality Point Clouds and Digital Holography

By Lieca N. Hohner, Chief Editor SparLLC

Our industry never comes short in the innovation department. HKS Inc., headquartered in Dallas, Texas, proves this—it’s turned “regular” point clouds into game-engine quality. Here’s the story. And then read on for some amazing display solutions.
HKS, Inc.’s Pat Carmichael, manager of the Advanced Technology Group, began investigating point cloud scans as a way to achieve high-quality as-built information for the company’s architectural geometry applications used for schematic design (most often Revit). The team realized many benefits using laser scan data, including the ability to obtain data not manually possible, draw while acquiring field data, gain highly accurate data comparable to total station data, and to collect immense amounts of data in rapid time. Point clouds are the bread and butter of rapid model acquisition, Carmichael said in his presentation at SPAR 2009.
HKS scan data captured from subcontractors’ scanners are used in HKS’ home-grown product called BIMMIT, an evolving spin-off product from their real-time game-engine product ARCHengine that has been in development for more than 10 years and that which enhances Revit models. BIMMIT is usually coupled with HKS’ proprietary ARCHengine for real-time display of the resulting 3D BIMMIT/Revit models, which can be between 8 million to 30 million polygons depending on their use on a laptop or desktop.
To illustrate the awesomeness of this melding, consider the W hotel in Dallas. The final model of the pre-constructed hotel designed by HKS was used to show city officials how the hotel’s sight lines would affect the downtown skyline so valued by the city. It was also used to sell out the associated condos prior to construction, as developers could take prospective buyers virtually up to their windows to show the views from their units. This same concept was used for the Ritz-Carlton twin towers in downtown Dallas; the presentation helped to pre-sell approximately 85% of the Phase One units in about six months—even in this down market, Carmichael said.
HKS used aerial lidar from the city to set elevations, some of which are photographically textured. HKS also flies with a RED ONE digital camera, which shoots in 4K resolution, whereby they extract high-resolution textures rapidly for application with the aerial lidar geometry. Most of the building models come out of Revit.
With these incredible design tools, HKS also performed a design review on the seating in the new American Airlines sports arena. HKS showed staff, team owners and other investors how seats would articulate and rise for a hockey or basketball arena and specifically how they would affect viewlines. On the new Dallas Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, HKS took the collected field scan data, structural data and drawing data—and all site views from all 89,000 seats, scoreboards, etc., into ARCHengine. To check the models during construction, HKS used a total station to get information from point to point. In the desktop models of the ARCHengine tools, everything is georeferenced with lat/long/elev, which gives the team dimensional data.
“It’s a serious design tool,” Carmichael said. “It’s a serious communication tool to the clients/users/vendors, all the other suppliers, and a bunch of other people participating in the design process.”
Carmichael says the next version of ARCHengine version 3 will tie individual objects to a reporting structure, in line with 4D business strategies that tie in time, space calculations and scheduling. He said HKS Advanced Technology Group is also working with Intel on the high-end multi-processors to be able to react more quickly to a cluster of cores for simulations.
Those involved in sports stadium, government, military or GSA work will be interested in HKS’ Advanced Technology Group solutions.
To see an interactive map of the seats in the new Dallas Stadium with panoramic images generated from ARCHengine, click tohttp://www.dallascowboys.com/tickets/newstadiumInteractiveMaps.cfm

Digital Imaging, Holographic Style

Zebra Imaging, Inc., provider of holographic display technologies, has taken visualization of LiDAR and laser scan data sets to a new level. Users in the geospatial, AEC, automotive, medical, oil & gas, military and other arenas can view a topographical data set in full parallax, full color and without any glasses or goggles. “Seeing LiDAR and laser scanned data volumetrically expands its utility and value,” said Michael Klug, Zebra’s CTO, at this year’s SPAR 2009. Government and commercial uses seem endless.
Zebra’s solution graduates a physical display to digital holography by reconstructing a 3D image in space using film-based displays and illumination. The 12-year-old company founded by graduates of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Media Lab has cut its teeth by aiding the military and law enforcement with displays that assist planning and after-action efforts, situational awareness and training.
It’s pretty cool stuff—a far, FAR cry from the hologram stickers I collected as a little girl. Klug describes the process as being more like burning data to a disc rather than a printing process. From a pair of GeoTiffs (one being a DEM, the other a geotextured map), Zebra’s proprietary Imager burns the pattern into photopolymer film with intersecting laser beams and produces an A1-size (594 × 841 mm) monochrome hologram that can be produced in CAD, GIS, medical imaging, oil & gas, etc., formats in 1-millimeter hogel size—about a pixel. Process time is about three hours. An average A1-size monochrome (green) hologram costs about $2,500. Full color and replication is available, and Klug says high-speed development will be available by Q4. Klug claims Zebra’s solution is similar or lower cost compared to other market alternatives today, and that it is more transportable and usable with full solid parallax 3D.
Zebra has produced more than 6,000 LiDAR-based holographic displays for military use in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2006. The 2×2 ½-foot maps provide warfighters with a common communication tool to get a common operating picture of an area of interest without language or cultural obstacles. Klug said they’re easily transportable and durable and, later, shreddable.
Focus on AEC Market
In the last two years, the company has developed a new product line for the AEC realm. Attention focuses on geospatial context and all phases of design, BIM documentation, and communications and marketing.
Currently, Zebra is defining a styles guide and a CAD tool API plug-in-based interface available from a drop-down menu in Revit, 3DS Max and Google Sketchup (at first, then others). Klug says the creation of a wizard is a bit complicated for Zebra since they render with in-house tools to manage 64,000 to a quarter-million views of a scene within two hours. So, they’ve created a render-quality selection where the user can select a point cloud, a simple-shaded rendition of a data set, a textured data set or a photo-real selection (which customizes the job). Orders are returned in A-frame and horizontal format (each of which delivers different results) and include a lighting component.
The Creation of Dynamic Displays
In 2004, Zebra was sponsored by DARPA to create a program for dynamic 3D displays for interactive graphic-intensive applications.  The dynamic displays would be easy to view, have 360-degree visibility, be electronically updated in real-time, be modular and scalable to 6×6 feet, and offer horizontal, vertical and inclined orientations. To date, they’ve established a 1-meter diagonal prototype modular display of 8-inch square tiles with an image volume that occupies about 1 foot of space. It directly plugs into OpenGL-based applications and updates at 10 Hz. Pilot production and beta phase of this display is expected next year. Klug said any rendering feature a user can see on a 2D screen can be produced in the hologram, including translucency, transparency, reflection, etc.

Uses for these displays include, but don’t appear to be limited to, spatial, project and industrial process planning, land development, event security logistics, emergency management, heritage preservation, forensics presentation and construction progress monitoring.