Most of my exploration of virtual worlds for engineering has been in Second Life and OpenSim. However, this year I have been looking more at Unity3D. Engineers are conservative and seem to dismiss virtual worlds like Second Life and OpenSim. Even though these programs are 3D modeling tools, they don't resemble nor do they use the typical CAD tools engineers are used to working with. Because Unity3D works well with these CAD tools and better resembles modeling programs, I suspect it will find greater acceptance by AEC groups.
As an example of what can be done with Unity3D, I show below a crude example of importing DEM files into Unity3D. While the process is fairly easy, I still have some issues with the elevations looking too exaggerated, and there is an area that does not have contours. I also need to figure out how to apply the aerial images to the ground. So I still have a lot of work to do to refine this, but I thought it was pretty cool to be able to import contours and see the flat land transform immediately to reflect the topology of my city. I put some water in the model to indicate the river which helps to highlight the dam and islands. But I have yet to add any buildings, trees, or other features.
Fox River Valley in Geneva, Ill.
Another cool aspect of Unity3D is it can be embedded in a browser. Below is the static representation of what I created showing a view looking north through the river valley. Eventually I can add the capability for someone to travel through this model of my city with an avatar.
[WP_UnityObject src="http://www.publicworksgroup.com/images/stories/test1.unity3d" /]
Sometimes, naming a subdivision can be easy – for example a subdivision located in a shady grove of oak trees might be called Shady Oaks. But how do developers choose a subdivision name if there isn't an obvious candidate? Last week I was surprised to find out there are online generators designed for the sole purpose of naming subdivisions. Here are the links to a few:
A random subdivision/housing development/rest home name generator
Generator Land: Subdivision Name Generator
Real Estate Subdivision Name Generator : This one will generate "nice" names like Willow Vista and "negative" names like Putrid Gorge
Town Name Generator
As a genealogist I have found the census to be invaluable to my research; but even more important has been its impact on the economic development of my community. And here is the reason why, taken directly from the Census Bureau’s Website:
“Census data are used to distribute Congressional seats to states, to make decisions about what community services to provide, and to distribute $300 billion in federal funds to local, state and tribal governments each year.”
So, the census numbers can determine services provided by a community and can affect the amount of funding a community receives for improvements and programs. The census can also affect what regulations and laws the community is obligated to follow. Smaller communities usually have less restrictions and lighter regulations than large communities.
Because the census is so important to the country, the Census Bureau is trying to get the word out. If you want to help distribute informational materials at your own agency, you can find them at the Census Bureau Website.
The Public Works Group is doing its part by hosting a Census 2010 educational site on Public Works Island in Second Life. Visitors to the site can see photos from the Census Bureau, watch a movie about the census, access census-related job information, and find links to related Websites. Eventually, I will have Census T-shirts available too.
If you have a Second Life account, you can visit by clicking the following SLURL:
Because I initially joined Second Life as a means of promoting the awesome community that I live and work in, my primary focus was always to find displays or builds that would help our city reach out to the community. One of the ideas I had thought about implementing was a “Code House” – a building in which the the International Residential Building Code could be shown in 3-D.
As the city’s building inspector I discovered that many builders and homeowners do not have the time, the patience, or the motivation to sit down and read the code book. I do think that the code council has done the best job possible in setting up the book and presenting the information, but let’s face it, few people want to sit down and read a book of regulations. So I have often wondered how to best convey the information in the code book in an easy and simple way that will engage everyone’s interest.
I believe that the Second Life environment provides the opportunity to create a presentation that will show the code requirements in a simple and intuitive manner. If I need to find out the height at which to install switches or receptacles, I simply walk into the house and the dimension is shown on the wall. If I need to show the width of a doorway, I put phantom text hanging in the doorway space. How much simpler can it be?
Well, I started building the house but have to admit that it has been slow going – too much to accomplish in Second Life and that darn real life thing (such as my real job) keeps me from hanging out in SL as much as I would like. So I was happy to find a kindred spirit in the avatar of Brand Woodin. Brand, who is from England, had been considering the same type of idea but of course, wanted to build a home that would convey the English code. So we thought, how cool is that to have homes built to teach codes from different countries.
Last night we discussed the project some more and came up with some fun and interesting side projects like creating a kit to wire a light switch where someone in SL could get the kit and practice actually wiring it as they would in real life. The completed wiring job would work (turn the light on) only if wired correctly. Otherwise maybe it would blow up or something cool like that. Well, now we need a good scripter to help us implement that idea.
Anyway, the home I am working on is located on the Public Works sim for now. Brand will be building his “across the street” from mine. English and American. Now if only we can find others from different countries who are interested in creating homes to reflect their codes. There is so much that can be illustrated and accomplished, so if anyone is interested in joining in with us to implement this project or create related projects, we would love to have you join in and become part of our team.