The whole world in our hands

Mirror world is the term used to describe a digital recreation of a globe. Google Earth, Microsoft's Virtual Earth, and NASA WorldWind are popular examples of mirror worlds. As the mixed reality Metaverse emerges, these digital globes will integrate more with our day to day.

Let's take a look at Google Earth (G.E.). Formerly Keyhole's Earth View Finder, this is a proprietary digital globe that most people are familiar with. One can zoom around the planet, turn on/off different layers of information, import 3D content via SketchUp , look at stitched 360 panoramic images of cities with Street View, links to the web, Google Ocean, and a host of other features.

Here is my current residence built in SketchUp, and put in location on Google Earth. Lots of cool functionality but regardless of who makes or adds the content, Google owns the experience. Not a true mirror world in the sense that no one entity owns our real planet.

As more cities go digital, these 3D cities and other building information models are simply too resource-intensive to be effectively developed by any isolated group or single company. At the end of the day, no government entity wants a private "toll keeper" for their real world information. The people I talk to that represent federal agencies that use Google Earth would prefer a digital globe not owned by any one company, so like NASA's WorldWind with the add layers of information functionality G.E. offers.

With that being said, enter X3D Earth. Funded by the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA), X3D Earth is an initiative aimed at building a standards-based 3D Earth usable by governments, industry, scientists, academia and the general public. X3D mappings of world terrain, cartography and imagery will be made available for use in any scene, making it easy to geospatially reference and share X3D models.

X3D-Earth efforts encompass client-side, server-side, authoring, and conversion technologies. Specific technical objectives include:
  • Build a backdrop X3D model of planet Earth
  • Use publicly and privately available terrain datasets
  • Use publicly and privately available imagery and cartography
  • X3D technologies will be applied to maximize interoperability among spatially aware implementations
  • Provide linkable locations for any place
  • Provide hooks for physical models
  • Use open standards, extensions and process
  • Define functionality in a platform-independent manner
There are multiple different version of X3D Earth in regard to the data that is displayed. My previous blog includes a video that shows the Open Street Map and Blue Marble X3D Earths running side by side.

Already this platform supports higher polygon models than the other popular mirror worlds. These screen-shots are of a zoom in from far out in space to a CAM (Computer Aided Manufacturing) 3D model with a skybox and some fake terrain placed on X3D Earth.

This 3D model (not textured just colored) was exported from a CAM software, and includes every board with metadata needed to actually manufacture this home. There is not one SketchUp model out there that is can be used as a manufacturing model nor can the G.E. platform support this amount of 3D geometry with attached information.

Another bonus is the high levels of interactivity that X3D Earth supports. One can inline or place highly interactive scenes in world. Even though still in development, this digital globe blows the orbits off of the others when it comes to the interactivity the platform supports, this is simulation technology after all. Click here to see how Australia's USGS is using a X3D Earth. On our Web3DStudent version of X3D Earth, we already have 3D scenes geo-located with higher levels of interaction and graphical fidelity than anything out on other current mirror worlds.

Our current student globe in an interactive Solar System

At this moment only the Xj3D (open source) browser fully supports the geo components for X3D Earth with other X3D browsers starting to implement more of these features. Here is another video of Byounghyun's with a more technical description of X3D Earth.

If any are interested in turning their 3D models into geo-located X3D scenes for this digital globe, email me and I will be happy to help with a quick "how to".

Many thanks to Don Brutzman, Byounghyun Yoo, and the others of the X3D Earth working group for all their work on the development of X3D Earth. Supported by standards bodies like the Web3D Consortium, World Wide Web Consortium, and the Open Geospatial Consortium, X3D Earth is a key backbone our mixed reality Open Metaverse will be built on. Expect to see more coverage of this digital globe in future Web3DStudent projects and this blog.


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