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Build A 3D City Model Within Minutes

ESRI's CityEngine software enables 3D modeling of urban environments. The forthcoming version of the software will enable developers to use the 3D city modeling technology in their own software.
September 13, 2013, 12pm PDT | Chris Steins | @urbaninsight
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An image of a 3D city block generated by ESRI CityEngine software
ESRI City Engine

ESRI's CityEngine software enables tech-savvy users to create 3D city models in a fraction of the time previously required for 3D modeling. The software has been popular with cities and counties who need to model 3D urban environments, particularly for analyzing urban planning projects or modeling the impact of zoning changes.

Recently, the software has been adopted by computer game developers and movie studios to create complex and realistic 3D urban environments. For example, CityEngine was used to create the urban vistas of Superman's home, Metropolis, in the recent movie, Man of Steel.

The new version of CityEngine will include a software development kit, or SDK, that enables software developers to use the CityEngine's 3D generation technology in their own products, such as games. However, the potential also exists for enterprising urban planning technologists to use the SDK as well.

"CityEngine's procedural generation means that generating an entire 3D city can be done at the click of a button once a developer has written a script, instead of modelling buildings and blocks one-by-one in a conventional modelling program," writes Computerworld's Rohan Pearce.

Pearce quotes Gert van Maren, who is Esri's product manager for 3D: "To model a city of a 100,000 buildings, we just write some code and the city gets modelled. You write the code in an hour, then you hit a button and the city gets created in a couple of minutes; whereas if you have to do it manually, 100,000 buildings would take you quite a while."

Local governments who will be early adopters of the software include "Townsville in Queensland and the Auckland City Council in New Zealand, which has used it in the process of drawing up its Unitary Plan for the future of development in the city."

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Published on Friday, September 13, 2013 in ComputerWorld
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