Mark S. Lindhult, Chair - Julius Gy. Fabos, Member
In recent years a variety of groups have been using combinations of GIS (Geographic Information Systems) and Real Time, Virtual Reality modeling for planning applications, as described by Barnes. For these applications, Virtual Reality modeling was used to show existing conditions as well as the effects proposed planning decisions would have on a community. These models allow users, whether they are planners or community residents, to see these effects and make changes to their planning strategies accordingly (Barnes 2002).
The CommunityViz staff describes how the models being used are generated with real time modeling developed for the gaming and simulation industry. Models of this type allow for changes to be updated and displayed almost instantly on the computer screen. This is a major advantage over previous forms of modeling, which took between hours and weeks to create as well as render models before they could be displayed to users.
When used in public planning meetings, participants can make planning policy changes and watch what happens to the model of their community. They can then modify their planning policies based on this feedback. Real time virtual reality modeling has another benefit; unlike previous forms of computer modeling, users can explore these models at will as if they were walking or driving through the planned community (Barnes 2002; CommunityViz-Staff 2003).
The general process of creating GIS based 3D Virtual Reality models has been documented. However, at the time of this writing, this author was unable to find documentation of the step-by-step, day-to-day, processes of the work. The purpose of this study is to research these techniques and create a model using them to find out what is really involved. Throughout this study, the process is documented to provide a step-to-step reference to anyone wishing to create their own 3D Virtual Reality model.
This project began when David Pesuit of the Accident Analysis Group decided to have a 3D computer model of his building along with the cafe he proposed to build attached to it integrated with a model of the surrounding buildings. Included in this modeling project was the Armory Street parking lot. A meeting was then arranged with Wayne Feiden, the City Planner for Northampton to discuss the possibility of using this 3D model for city planning and the approval of the Cafe project. Mr. Feiden was interested in creating a 3D Virtual Reality model of the entire Historic Mill River Corridor running through downtown Northampton. He procured funding for the project and work began in December of 2002.