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L-04: Rapid Visualization with the Virtual Terrain Project Software

Interactive Geospatial Visualization is a complex and fascinating field. Closed solutions such as Google Earth and ESRI ArcGlobe can produce some results, but they are limited in very many ways including input formats, output realism, and closed architecture. This class will teach you to use a completely Free and Open alternative – the VTP software – to produce the most realistic realtime visualization from virtually any data, all with an easy-to-use GUI.

You will be led step-by-step through the complete processing and visualization of two scenes:

  1. USA. Learn to take advantage of all the Federal, State and Local datasets, including the strengths and pitfalls of each USGS distribution format, in production of a complete 3D scene of a US city. The scenario will include placing and evaluating the landscape impact of constructing a wind turbine farm near a populated area.
  2. International. Learn how to produce a scene in parts of the world that do not have a free national mapping agency, by using SRTM and other global datasets augmented with diverse local data as available.

As time allows, the class can cover advanced subjects including paging of huge datasets, roadway attributes, vehicles, forestry applications, scientific visualization, bathymetric data, and any other subjects of interest to the participants.

You do not need to have any programming or command-line experience to take this class, but it will be described how those with C++ development skills can in fact extend and customize the software, or freely build it into their applications (even commercially, as several companies have done) thanks to the flexible MIT/X-style license.

User Level

Beginner to Advanced


Ben Discoe is a veteran of the Virtual Reality industry, with 14 years of experience working on 3D user interaction in virtual environments. He previously spent 5 years at Sense8 where he worked on WorldToolKit, at the time the world's most mature 3D/VR API, and 3 years at Intel Corporation in the Advanced Graphics Research Lab, where he prototyped 3D applications to catalyze the formation of future software industries. Since 2000, he has run the Virtual Terrain Project (VTP), with the mission to foster the creation of tools for easily constructing any part of the real world in interactive, 3D digital form. The VTP includes a suite of software as an Open Source implementation of that goal, with 7000 recipients in 132 countries, and a corresponding website acknowledged as the globally leading information source on the subject of terrain visualization.