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RAPIDsite Introduces 3D Parametric Modeling for GIS/CAD Users

(July 09, 2001)
Evans & Sutherland Computer Corp. will demonstrate 3D visualization capabilities for GIS and CAD users of its RAPIDsite visualization software at the annual ESRI Users Conference, the company announced today.

RAPIDsite Version 2.2, which will ship in August, introduces new features aimed at GIS/CAD users, such as the ability to use ESRI ArcView shapefiles and AutoCAD DWG files to automatically generate parametric 3D feature models and place them in a dynamic 3D site visualization.

The first 3D site visualization software designed especially for landscape architects, civil engineers, land planners, and municipal planners, RAPIDsite enables users to create dynamic 3D site visualizations of commercial, infrastructure, industrial, public works, and residential real estate developments.

In addition to new parametric feature modeling capabilities, version 2.2 also offers a number of performance and usability improvements, such as texture management enhancements, support for ArcView projects containing multiple shapefiles, and the ability to generate 360-degree digital panoramic images along with video fly-throughs and walk-throughs for use on Web sites and other marketing materials.

"The RAPIDsite 2.2 release provides a quantum leap in 3D visualization capabilities for CAD and GIS users who support the design, approval, and marketing of the full range of real estate and land development projects," said Bob Ard, E&S Applications Group vice president.

"Our new parametric feature modeling capabilities allow our users to automatically, and almost instantaneously, generate photorealistic 3D site models from their 2D CAD and GIS files. What used to take days now requires literally only a few moments! This makes RAPIDsite visualization cost effective for virtually every project."

Like other terrain visualization software products, RAPIDsite generates 3D terrain models and then drapes them with aerial photos. But unlike competitive approaches, RAPIDsite easily integrates both existing and proposed grading into terrain models and can also display CAD or GIS site plans as vector overlays on the textured terrain surface.

In addition, RAPIDsite provides a powerful and revolutionary capability for quick and easy creation of high-fidelity ground features based on the GIS or CAD site plan.

"Terrain surface areas defined by vectors in the site plan are filled with user-selectable photo-realistic textures from RAPIDsite's texture library, resulting in a spatial resolution as fine as a few inches.

"This unique terrain texturing approach avoids a common deficiency of alternative, polygon-based approaches -- the proliferation of unnecessary polygons that reduce real-time performance and the constant flashing between the coplanar polygons on the terrain surface," said Ard.

RAPIDsite provides a broad range of methods for populating the textured terrain model with 3D objects -- library models, parametric modeling, and custom modeling -- enabling users to trade off the site-specificity and accuracy of 3D objects against modeling time. In addition, users may import models from other RAPIDsite projects or VRML models.

However, what really sets RAPIDsite apart is its unique, beautifully simple, and extremely powerful "point-and-click" method for placing objects in the scene.

"Unlike competing approaches, feature placement with RAPIDsite is `WYSIWYG,'" explained Ard. "The user simply positions the cursor on the terrain surface -- in either the 2D or 3D window -- and clicks the mouse. The object instantly appears at that location and conforms to the terrain surface instead of to a mean sea level datum typically far below the ground."

"When you place a 3D model, you want it on the ground," said Kent Galloway of the Geospatial Technology Group of CH2M Hill. "This sounds simple, but it's not. It can be a real chore with other products, but in RAPIDsite it just works."

Once placed in the scene, a 3D model may be selected with a mouse click and interactively manipulated or edited. Each model can be copied and pasted, moved anywhere in three dimensions, rotated in any direction, scaled, mirrored, replaced with another model, or deleted. All these manipulations are interactive, instantaneous, and simultaneously visible in both the 2D and 3D windows.

"RAPIDsite's ability to view and manipulate a model in a truly interactive mode is unique. You just can't do this with any of the other tools we know of in this price range," said Galloway. "Having a 3D model as accessible and easy to interact with as a video game is where RAPIDsite really shines."

"RAPIDsite's new capability to generate parametric features from our ArcView shapefiles is amazing," said Ken Schmidt, GIS Coordinator of the city and county of Honolulu. "Using RAPIDsite 2.2 and our Honolulu/Waikiki shapefiles containing building footprints and height attributes, textured 3D models of about 800 buildings can be generated in just a few minutes.

"And then, we can use RAPIDsite to edit and manipulate any of these models. We can even use RAPIDsite's Building Modeler to add geometric and texture enhancements to any building model we want. There is simply nothing else like this for visualizing our GIS data!"

RAPIDsite is the first professional real-time, 3D site visualization software product expressly designed for visualization of real estate and land development projects.

Using RAPIDsite, customers can create, explore, and present photorealistic models of project sites and their surroundings along with new and existing buildings and landscaping, in a fraction of the time required by other visualization tools.

RAPIDsite features fast 3D model construction and real-time graphics rendering performance on a Windows NT(R) or Windows 2000 computer with an OpenGL graphics accelerator. With RAPIDsite, "views," "panoramas," "walk-throughs," "drive-throughs," and "fly-throughs" of the site can be created easily and captured quickly as digital images and streaming video files for use on the Web.

RAPIDsite 2.2 will be available in August 2001. Customers in the United States may rent or purchase RAPIDsite software or obtain RAPIDsite services online at, via email at [email protected], or by calling 800/574-7333.

Evans & Sutherland produces hardware and software to create highly realistic 3D images. E&S business units deliver high-quality visual systems for simulation and training in defense and commercial applications; digital theaters; and related applications throughout the world. Visit the E&S Web site at

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