Planet Photoshop

Nowadays, there are so many tools and plug-ins available which magicaly enable us to create impressive visuals which previously took hours, or days to create. Texturing is one of these painful, but sometimes fun activities.. and possibly the most important part when it comes to 3D scenes. Procedural Shaders is one simple option, but takes time to optimize the results.  I just tried out the LounarCell from Flaming Pear (flamingpear.com) which allows the texturing of a customized planet in about 2 minutes. There is a trial version available , while the full version costs £19. There is a detailed installation guide in the downloaded folder. The plugin is in the form of a filter, where the user can select colors and textures using diffrent interactive controls.

Fun and easy, with the possibility of producing several maps. Even though i am unsure of the projection.. 


TweetCity: Building London using Real time feeds and CityEngine

As part of our time here in CASA UCL, Stephan Hugel and I, developed a simple tool to capture and visualize live tweet feeds and project them onto the actual form of the built environment.

The application uses the Twitter API, and visualizes results in 3D, similarly to the known London Twitter map by UrbanTick, developed using the data collector created by Steven Gray, in an attempt to create a new urban landscape.

This work is a first attempt to bring real-time data feeds directly into 3D GIS and 3D cities and visualize them using a different view. As Stephan wrote: "What if London's buildings grew according to the amount of data they generate?". There is currently a big emphasis on BIM and data management, with a clear focus on sustainability and social infrastructure. However, there is very little information on how and if this process affects the way the built environment grows and evolves.

Of course this project does not aim to address such questions, but to demonstrate new ways of augmenting already existing spatial data. The application was built entirely in ESRI's CityEngine, as it offers a range of 3D visualization techniques which relate to the urban environment. CityEngine allows the generation of forms using simple "rules". In this case, the project collects real-time tweet feeds, aggregates them by a custom discrete zone system and by default, visualizes them as building heights. CityEngine provides the key-advantage of  allowing the automatic storing of spatially geolocated data directly on a shapefile, augmenting GIS with live information and update the visualization real-time. That is why this application, can work with different basemaps, such as a land use map, wards, or even roads.  At the moment, the script stores the number of total tweets for any discrete zone and keeps track of time and date.

For example, if the user wants to know how many tweets will fall in the area of Hyde Park for a specific period of time, he will only have to import an outline of the park in the scene of CityEngine and adjust the values appropriately. The rules that generate geometry are independent of the Information System, a feature which according to my opinion is one of the main advantages of CityEngine, as is allows the customization of different visualizations.

Use of different Basemaps to represent real-time twitter activity - Greater London - 1 km Grid zones. 

Here is a little video preview, while thanks to Stephan you can download the full script along with instructions and samples from GitHub.
Works with CityEngine, download trial version here.


Developing classical and contemporary models in ESRI's City Engine- CASA Working Paper 191

ESRI's City Engine not only is a great urban generator, but it also provides the ideal approach for turning the 3D virtual city into an urban modelling tool. Procedural modelling visualizes the results of mathematical models on a 3D Environment and simulate the changes real-time, providing all the necessary features for testing the consequences of Urban modelling theories onto the physical form of the urban environment.

I am very excited to have this first paper published in the CASA UCL webpage.


In this paper we describe the development of projects which aim to explore the use of procedural modelling as a complete toolkit for building interactive visualizations of urban modelling theories. We will use three case studies, starting with the original von-Thunen model, a generalization of von-Thunen using multiple centres and finally the standard dynamic retail model by Wilson and Harris. We will discuss the advantages and limitations in using ESRI’s City Engine and the use of interactive techniques, to visualize and explore classical and contemporary urban modelling theories, by introducing spatial interaction and spatial dynamics within the simulation of a 3d city. In this framework, we provide a guide for developing urban models to aid better analysis and understanding of the urban environment through 3d urban visualizations, complexity theories and interactive systems.


download the full paper and other publications by CASA from here

This paper presents work conducted within the context of the MRes in Advanced Spatial Analysis and Visualization. Supervisor professor: Dr. Andrew Hudson Smith.

I will soon publish a brief tutorial.

Limitless London

Defining urban boundaries is certainly an undefined topic. A proof is the recent "boarderless" competition where the winning projects swing between creating a functional built form of the boundary, or revolved around the notions of non-permanence and instability. The winning project ‘Floating Border Project’ by Hélène Grialouand Sebastien Gafari, creates a moving boarder. "The shaded frontier is moving throughout hours, days and seasons. The installation is composed of an inflatable structure which consists of a balloon cloud upon the Temple. These balloons calculate the weather forecast, wind and luminosity. During bad weather, the limit on the ground disappears and the aerial structure lights up to become a signal seen by the both two countries." 

As urban planning and architecture integrates advanced techniques from computer science, big data and other sciences, it is affecting the built environment in both design and construction. New techniques which introduce complex calculations of different data feeds have led professionals of the build environment to slightly change their role and find solutions in relation to design and function with a clear focus on optimization and efficiency.

In the movie "Limitless" - 2011, a writer finds the "golden" pill, which allows him to access all of his potentials, giving him fulfilment in life- work and relationships and to accomplish his every goal. The intro of the film, is a very good metaphore of the limitless city. A reflection of todays fluxuating society and the rush to adjust to something that looks as if "it" has begun and as if "it" has no ending.

1st prize of boarderless competition by Hélène Grialou & Sebastien Gafari

In another film by K. Giannaris, "From the Edge of the City" , the undefined city boundaries represent a more vague image of the people who live in the edge of social acceptable. In today's society, to be able to learn quick and easy so as to be as efficient as possible is part of this new world and this tends to be a dominant idea of the new urban utopia. Are we giving our cities some technological shots in the end? Are the boarders going to be defined by what is unable to adjust; inhabited by the marginalized of those without smart-phones?

And so, inspired by the brilliant intro of "Limitless" - here is a google maps version for the city of London. Of course not as well executed, but an animation using Google maps and some free sounds from http://soundbible.com, turned out to be something very quick and easy to do.


Untitled #1 - local Avoidance

In CASA UCL, we have been exploring diffrent assets in Unity 3D. The local avoidance asset of the A* Pathfinding Project, seems to be a complete and one of the most interesting toolkits for simulating hundrends, maybe thousands of agents real-time. Among others, it includes a complete local avoidance system based on RVO and ORCA.

There seams to be a slight glitch in the generation of diffrent graphs, but overall it can add up to about 6000 - 7000 pathfinding elements without causing any problems and the source code is open for further development. In this visualization the elements not only detect one another, but also have a basic interaction with their enviroment (In this case the space created by the 3D text). In this case there are points in the 3d text which attract more than others and create clusters which fill the space inside the graph.  There are two graphs used, one which detects obstacles, such as 3d objects and one which attracts the bots to specific locations.
find the A* Project at : http://arongranberg.com/astar/features



Agents and Sustainability in Unity 3D

Built in Unity 3D, this is an early attempt to create a simple model of energy consumption using agents and interactivity in a playful manner. Eve, the avatar from the infinite museum and her sisters, are looking for energy to grow. Once found, they no longer move in panic. That is until they have consumed the energy they stored..

It is not arguable that there is a relentless hunt for energy supply these days and renewable energy is one of the key topics in discussions about the future of the city. Building an intelligent sustainable urban environment is a priority and we seem to be heading towards there... however, urban areas and the demand for energy keeps growing in an accelerating ratio, and the lack of it, seems to be causing panic. On top of that, unexpected events keep coming and they seem to destroy all the effort for planning and predictions.

It is a fact though, that simulations, can help us understand the consequences of decisions and help in avoiding at least the obvious mistakes.

This is part of a PhD research and part of the research work at the Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis in UCL.



A London Network Analysis using City Engine

I thought i might try a very quick network analysis of central London using the new City Engine Graph analysis tool and the OS road network. In City Engine, Graph networks can be analyzed by computing global integrationlocal integration and inbetween centrality. Global integration refers to the sum of shortests paths between each road segment and all other selected segments. In short, this tool calculates all shortest paths between street segments, while the cost fuction takes into account the angles between segments. In this case i' m using automated settings, but even so, the graph tool identifies key features of London's street network such as the high values of Global integration on Oxford Street, which are highlighted red.