Visualizing the third dimension: Overview and QGIS2threejs example. Web mapping playground part II

About ten years ago, in the boom years of 3D geodata visualization, expensive expert systems appeared. Systems as the costly LandeXplorer, developed by 3DGeo in Potsdam, later acquired by Autocad, were developed to visualize the z-dimension of geodata. Proprietary Arc Scene could be used, though Arc Scene was not as powerful as LandXplorer, but  quite OK, unlikely users needed a license from ESRI.

Open source alternatives

Only a few open source alternatives existed. Paraview should be mentioned . Paraview, which I used to map soil contamination, improved a lot and nowadays it´s worth a look. Nviz, a GRASS GIS module for 3D could be used and Fledermaus, a system for the 4-dimensional rendering of geodata were alternatives.

All in all visualizing the third dimension was not affordable or a pain in the ass (sorry for the hard words). 

Three.js revolution

Visualizing the third, or better the two and a half dimension in a browser was not imaginable. Later WebGL appeared, but the learning curve for WebGL, just for visualizing some 3D data, was really high. Fortunately Three.js was developed. Three.js according to Wikipedia is „a cross-browser JavaScript library/API used to create and display animated 3D computer graphics in a web browser.“ Three.js really facilitated 3D mapping and unexpectedly a new tool was out there, to do web based three-dimensional mapping of geodata.
A plugin for QGIS was developed, to use three.js within QGIS: http://qgis2threejs.readthedocs.io/
QGIS2three.js provides a powerful, extremely versatile tool for a  visualization of z-dimensional data within web browsers.

QGIS2Three.js example

The following example was done with QGIS2three.js. The plugin leads the user and pre-writes the three.js code, ready to upload as a web map. The JavaScript code later can be customized e.g. using an editor as ATOM. My QGIS2Threejs example shows landslides in Rio Blanco-Nicaragua mapped in a landslide inventory, in which I took part during my master thesis project in 2005. The landslide polygons are mapped on a ASTER Global DEM, which was exaggerated by the scale of 3.

Even quadtrees can be built for data compression purposes. So the plugin gives the user a powerful open source tool, for developing all kind of 3D (geo-)data visualization usable within web browsers.

Bildschirmfoto 2017-02-19 um 14.17.44

If you plan to do some 3D mapping of geodata for the web, my recommendation is, take a look on QGIS2Three.js.

 

 

 

 

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