Civil Engineering

Teaching the OGRE To Be Civil

15 Dec, 2008 By: Kenneth Wong

An open-source game engine empowers civil simulation.

What do you get when you marry AutoCAD Civil 3D with the open-source game engine OGRE? The offspring, as seen in Israel-based Sivan Design’s latest plug-in Civil Simulate, is a 3D environment that reflects your project, updated immediately as you make changes to it.

Two weeks ago, Shai Cheruti, Sivan Design’s vice-president of sales and marketing, and CEO Shlomi Sivan flew 7,300 miles from the company’s headquarter in Raanana, Israel, to Las Vegas, Nevada, to wow Autodesk University attendees with Civil Simulate.

Civil Simulate
When you install Civil Simulate, it gives you an additional menu called Simulate in your Civil 3D toolbar. This menu allows you to instantly turn your Civil 3D project into what looks like a 3D video game environment, complete with texture and weather. It should be noted that the weather simulation (snow, rain, and clouds, for instance) is an atmospheric touch, not an accurate rendering based on real-world weather reports of the project site. On the other hand, the virtual terrain is supposedly accurate within 2 cm of the CAD data.

Civil Simulate uses LandXML schema to overlay orthorectified aerial photos on Civil 3D data to create a rolling terrain, providing you with a 3D scene you can drive through or fly over. In essence, the plug-in lets you experience the project before it’s constructed. You can perform accurate measurements or safety audits in the simulated 3D project view, the company points out. Sivan believes Civil Simulate will make it easier for civil professionals to give presentations and propose projects to those who are unfamiliar with civil engineering software. The plug-in also works with Sivan’s own product CivilCAD.

By combining orthorectified photos with Civil 3D project data, Sivan Design’s Civil Simulate provides a 3D environment you can fly over or drive through.

The 3D visualization of the panoramic scene is powered by OGRE, an open-source rendering engine. “Because it’s an open-source engine rather than a commercial engine, we were able to modify the engine to its current civil engineering uses to deal with the unpredictable changes in the terrain as well as the designed elements imported by the users,” Sivan said.

Civil Simulate uses the open-source rendering engine OGRE to let you visualize your Civil 3D projects in a game-like environment.

The activities on OGRE Forums reveal ongoing experiments with the use of OGRE to visualize geospatial data. For instance, on February 6, 2006, forum user LeJackY shared screenshots of what he described as a “research project.”

The poster wrote, “The main goal of the project is to visualize evolution of the landscape. First, to achieve this goal, the software [ingests] land-use data, DEM [digital elevation model], orthophoto, and other vector data (like edges) from a GIS. I’ve developed a plug-in to a GIS to manage this step. Secondly, the user can apply texture with different resolution and add vegetation (or any 3D models) to each land-use type by specifying density, spatialization (random, lines), the LOD [level of details].” For the entire discussion thread, click here. For a video clip of LeJackY’s project, click here.

On April 23, 2008, Amenothep, another forum user, shared screenshots describing how a canal lock is operated using an old steamer. He wrote, “What was actually quite labor-intensive was to integrate the procedural terrain with a manmade landscape (the canal) in a real height map (so that’s how the terrain actually looks, pulled from GIS).” To read the entire thread, click here. To view the YouTube video clip, click here.

More recently, in October 2008, a number of students from the Department of Civil Engineering, Tsinghua University, Beijing, China, published a paper titled “A GIS-Based 3D Simulation for Occupant Evacuation in a Building” (available for purchase from ScienceDirect).

In the abstract, the authors wrote, “The evacuation efficiency of building plans is of obvious importance to the public safety. The complexity of building plans, however, makes it difficult for the efficiency evaluation. This paper presents a computational model AutoEscape, which can simulate the evacuation process for any given occupant distribution in buildings. … The GIS-based environmental analysis is realized to automatically generate the geometric representation and formulate the cognition of agents. … A visualization component, which provides 3D free observations for the simulation process, is developed on the platform of OGRE and integrated into the system interface in [the] form of ActiveX control.”

A Brief History of Sivan
Sivan Design was founded by the current CEO Shlomi Sivan and his father David Sivan in 1996. The company’s product line spun out of Shlomi’s background in software engineering and math and David’s in civil engineering and computer science.

Civil Simulate was preceded by the company’s flagship product CivilCAD, a suite of 3D modules for road planning and design, water and earthworks design, surveying, and ground infrastructure work. CivilCAD is compatible with AutoCAD and Bricscad. Subsequently, Sivan released GeoERP, a product that integrates enterprise resource data and GIS data to create a data warehouse for land, property, road, and utility management.

In a company newsletter to its customers, Sivan wrote, “At the end of the year 2007, we recorded a growth of 70% in sales volume, and have exceeded 4,500 users, and over 1,500 customers worldwide. … We have opened new markets, while the existing markets have continued to grow.” One of the new markets Sivan is eying is North America, he revealed to the press at AU.

Related content:  GIS (Geographic Information Systems), Civil Engineering

About the Author: Kenneth Wong

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