The potential of Web-based mapping and virtual reality technologies for modelling urban environments
The paper will consider the potential of interactive mapping and virtual reality technologies being developed on the World Wide Web (WWW) for the visualisation, modelling and analysis of urban environments. A range of innovative technologies are being developed that offer different ways of modelling and representing built-form and associated urban information with real-time interaction over the Internet. We shall present a review of the capabilities of the technologies and how they can be applied in the field of planning and design of urban environments. The WWW offers both an interface to, and a delivery channel for, the built environment information as well as being a medium for linking distributed users. We are interested in affordable “off-the-shelf” software that is relatively easy to set-up and use and which requires standard PC-computing power preferable to a home user with a modem link (i.e., not high-end graphics workstations). The advantages and disadvantages which these technologies offer will be considered in terms of the level of realism and interactivity available to the end user. Working examples of these technologies which are being developed by the authors will be demonstrated and discussed throughout so as to qualify this review. The paper will also consider the applications of these technologies in a range of contexts, such as in local planning, urban design, development control, community participation, education and training. The implications for a wide range of potential users including planners, infrastructure managers, built environment students, community groups and interested members of the general public will also be discussed.