Terrain Tools & Software Packages - Commercial
(site in Italian)
for Desktop Basic)
with 3D Analyst
- suite of software, for Windows, including assembling scenes and a runtime
- pricing depends on application
- reads elevation from "all kinds of ASCII format", model from 3DS, images
- the focus is on applications like engineering, architecture, civil defense,
emergency management, impact studies
- they also distribute, for all Italian territory, Orthophoto, Aerials
and DTM ready for use in the software
- Was $1000 + $2500 from ESRI
- In 1999, i purchased it and did a
detailed evaluation; summary: many problems and limitations, not recommended
for virtual terrain work
- As of 2010, the latest incarnation of this software, for the Arc 8.x product line,
ArcGIS 3D Analyst
(still $2500!), which consists primarily of a 3D application called ArcScene; surely much improved since the old 3D Analyst, it should
from Israeli company Eternix Ltd.
- A suite of terrain visualization software with strong claims are to
massive scalability ("hundred of TB") and little need for preprocessing
("capable of reprojecting geodesic elevation data on-the-fly as well as
fusing multiple elevation layers of different resolutions, formats,
reprojections, and datum ")
- Terra is the main application, Blaze View and
Reader are viewers of different capabilities; there are extension
like City and Point Cloud for specific features.
- As of 2012, there is no indication on their site at all how much it
might cost, or even how to inquire about pricing.
- Originally from Sjöland&Thyselius Virtual Reality Systems of Sweden,
acquired by Bionatics in 2004
- Blueberry3D Terrain Editor ($quote) is a standalone 3D scene editor,
includes a map editor for designing terrain, reads ESRI binary/ASCII grids,
DEM, DTED, SHP, GeoTIFF
- Supports runtimes 'Bionatics Plug-in for Presagis Vega Prime' or directly
- "price will vary depending on location and distributor"
- Previous features of the Blueberry3D project (see the
Evaluation of Blueberry Realtime Viewer as of 2001)
including realtime shadows and photorealistic movie rendering, were apparently
dropped in 2002 in favor of working closer to Vis-sim standards
BS Contact Geo
- BS Contact Geo is €800 from Bitmanagement Software GmbH, or less for
- A web plugin viewer that supports BS's special extended-X3D/VRML file
format, which handles geospatial scenes
- The custom, proprietary extensions to X3D/VRML claim to be extensive
and powerful: BSTile, BSMap, and GeoSphere provide multi-threaded whole-earth
paging with overlaid vectors. ("GeoNodes")
- $15,000 from Aechelon Technology,
- toolset for editing, creation and management of scene databases, specifically
for their C-Nova runtime
- C-Genesis runs in IRIX, Linux and Windows; the image generator (C-Nova)
platform is currently SGI
- the company also sells a model library and image library
- A suite (Carmenta
Carmenta Server) with a toolkit for embedding geographic presentations into applications
- Mainly used in contract applications
for the Scandinavian market, but also licensed to others
- Integrated 2D/3D with real-time view
- Fly-throughs with dynamic load of data from disk, interaction and picking
- Procedural construction of buildings from footprint data
- Win32-based, uses OpenGL, supports script interfaces
- Reads : VPF, MapInfo, ESRI shape, DFAD, ARINC, DTED, USGS DEM,
GeoTIFF, ECW, etc.
- product of Turkish company 'Piri Reis Bilişim Tek. Müh.Yazılım Eğtim
- very impressive free OpenGL-based viewer, which connects to servers
for streaming of content: elevation, imagery, road outlines, 3D buildings,
points of interest, etc.
- like Google Earth, but even faster, smoother navigation
- consists of a server, a standalone viewer, and an ActiveX client
- quite mature, reportedly in development since 2004
- apparently there are powerful GIS-like features for queries and visibility
analysis, although i wasn't able to try them as the application is in Turkish
- Terrain engine (SDK) for adding terrain functionality
for any purpose (they list Video games, Simulation/aerospace,
Navigation, Urban planning)
- It has a Preprocessor app to import and maintain
massive terrain data, from real data source (SRTM, GeoTIFF, etc.);
including smoothing, rescaling, re-projecting terrain input data during
- Integrates with either DirectX or OpenGL
- Includes procedural modeling, realtime deformation,
fast collision detection
- Claims "even fast enough to use it for mobile phones"
- Licensed ($?) per year or per product
- Scenario 3D is one component of the
CommunityViz suite of software
($350/$850 from Placeways LLC)
- provides a real-time 3D environment for creating and manipulating a
virtual representation of a town and visually exploring different land-use
- It's unclear whether it's an evolution or replacement of the previous
SiteBuilder 3D, which included: A model library of over
350 models of houses, buildings, trees, and streetscapes, integration with
the ArcGIS product line, with all data coming from ESRI layers, and a
"Sharable 3D Scenes" feature (presumably, some kind of exporter plus standalone
viewer) lets you share scenes with other people.
- development was begun by the Orton Family
Foundation, before transferring to Placeways
- High-end, around $10,000 (as of 2000) from
Presagis (was MultiGen-Paradigm)
- Most of the terrain functionality is in optional extensions: Creator
Terrain Studio, Airports, Buildings, Road Tools.
- Drawbacks: Artifacts are produced by their LOD edge coherence approach.
- Suite of terrain visualization software, proprietary server and client,
from Greek company Talent
- the client is Java-based and theoretically is portable, although as
of June 2006 it was only available for Windows
- you don't buy the software, instead you hire them to assemble and host
your content as a "channel", so the price can vary greatly depending on
what you want to host
- the client has a typical 3D navigation interface, not unlike World Wind,
- their demo content (only content existing as of June 2006) was Greece
on-line,, whose interactivity consists of the usual flight, toggling
of layers, measuring distances, lightweight 2D features
of products (Builder, Server, Flyer) for "visualization of various data
sources: manifold textures (aerial and satellite imagery), vectorial
data, 3D models and LiDAR data."
- Prices range from €280 for a single-user single-seat
license, up to €10,000 for the "full" suite.
- From Italian company ABACO, which also has a number of
2D GIS and CAD software packages.
- The screenshots show it is well-suited to showing polygonal GIS
layers on top of 3D landscape, as well as TINs and point clouds.
- The server component has a GIS-database focus on the backend,
connecting to "Oracle Spatial and Locator, PostgreSQL GIS, MySQL GIS,
and also simple"; it also supports shapefiles and OGC WMS.
- $? from Dynamic Graphics, Inc.
- for building 3D models of underground data; primarily used by the petroleum
- uses OpenGL, runs on both Windows and Linux
- presumably it's realtime 3D; a '3-D Viewer' is a extra-cost module
- from Equipe Electronics
- toolset for "rapidly creating large area Geo-Specific terrain models"
- processes raw data source, including very large textures, to produce
a FLT model
- "Autopopulation" feature claims to recognize trees, woodlands and buildings
in aerial photos, and places 3D models accordingly
- Historically runs on Linux and SGI Irix, as of 2009 only on Windows.
Price depends upon application and
- For Linux/Mac/Windows, from QPS (Fledermaus team is New Brunswick, Canada)
- Focuses on scientific visualization (geology, hydrography, bathymetry)
- Supports DEM/DTED as well as volumetric, contour, line segment, seismic
- They have a free viewer
Fledermaus datasets, which does basic viewing.
- for Windows/Linux from Balfour Technologies LLC, a small consulting
firm in Bethpage, NY
- a browser/server combination which
claims "four-dimensional" data, which apparently means that it
stores a time component for animated objects
- the browser component is $80
- oriented towards use in AEC, real estate, transportation applications,
and has many examples of use in these fields including working with the
NY State Dept. of Transportation and the
- it appears oriented toward contract services with Balfour, rather than
as a standalone product
- planet-rendering technology of Paul Hansen, available for custom solutions
- includes includes a full earth model, continuous LOD, paging of high-resolution
texture and elevation, and draping of vectors
- a set of utilities that run within
- includes GEOPAK Road, GEOPAK Site, and GeoTerrain ($2000), which have
extensive tools for shaping and editing terrain, placing roads and buildings
- from Italian company GeoMind, spun off
from Infmedia in 2004
- their technology takes elevation, imagery and 3D models as input, and
produces scenes which are viewed in Macromedia Shockwave
- Historically: it was primarily intended for service work, not as a product for sale,
and an option existed to use server-side rendering (!) where the 3D frames
are sent down as a series of JPEG images
- In 2002-2004 their shockwave demos had awkward navigation and other
issues, but these went away over time (as well as shockwave)
- As of 2015, their product is primarily an iOS app.
- from UK company VIRTALIS;
presumably priced by contract?
- Co-developed by the British Geological Survey (BGS) as specialized
software for large, high-res geological datasets
- Seems to do the usual import of elevation, imagery etc. with tools
to do analysis, profiles, etc. with special support for sub-surface
layers, wells, flood simulation; see
- Because it is a VR company, their terrain tool is oriented towards
immersive display of the geology
- From SAIC, who calls it "WebCentric GeoSpatial Collaboration", a
"Web-based, commercial off-the-shelf, geospatial presentation tool
providing 2-D, 3-D and 4-D views"
- Integrates with ESRI and OGC formats and servers
- The entire GeoViz user interface is accessable via a Web browser.
- pricing unknown
- Released in 2010. $4000 per seat for the desktop application, with an
optional SDK, and a free browser-plugin viewer.
- Integrates with ArcGIS and also reads GIS data directly for a 3D runtime
environment. Marketing says "seamless collaboration, interoperability,
discovery, scalability, and delivery of geospatial data"
- In addition to the usual terrain and GIS feature geometry, it can read
building models from Google's 3D Warehouse (as Collada) and has
advanced rendering of day/night lighting effects.
- Version 3 (2012) adds support for realistic water, LIDAR, more KML
features, webmap tile layers.
cross-platform 3D engine from Saab
Training Systems AB
- closed-source but with very flexible licensing, esp. non-commercial
use is free; commercial use is $1000 per license
- does CLOD terrain with IRMA (Improved RoaM Algorithm), or with
multithreaded paging of static terrain, e.g. in the Terrapage format
- besides the terrain functionality, it is a full-featured scene graph
library with some advanced features: full support for hierarchical GLSL
shaders, physics integration with Meqon physics library, easy integration
with MacOSX/QT/X11/wxWindows, distributed network graphic objects
- Global Mapper
- The amazing Swiss-army knife of geospatial data, for Windows.
- Free for use as a 2D/3D data viewer, or commercial ($400) with conversion
and some editing capabilities.
- Supports a very large
number of formats, including: DLG, DRG, DEM, DOQ, SDTS DLG/DEM, LULC,
GTOPO30, Shapefiles, GNIS, DXF, BIL/BSQ/BIP, ArcInfo formats, GeoTIFF, SDTS,
CDED, image formats with world files, DXF, Surfer Grid, MrSID, ECW, ERDAS
Imagine, DTED, MapInfo MIF/TAB, Terragen, DGN, SRTM, TIGER, ADRG, CADRG,
VPF/VMAP, S-57, GPS waypoint/track formats, more!
- opens files directly from archived files (.gz, .tar.gz, .zip)
- automatically clips the collar for DRGs, and better yet, gives direct
access the onlines dataset to download seamless DRGs and other USGS
- sophisticated vector display, e.g. roads with width and map symbols
- Google Earth
- From Google, runs on Windows, Linux, Mac, and mobile devices.
- It is a client for for a vast proprietary geospatial content database,
including licensed data from many providers.
- $400 for standard version, alternately a free version is available
with limited functionality
- on 2005.11.12, reviewed the free version here:
Google Earth 3.0 Evaluation
- Very limited GIS-like functionality includes adding waypoints and
- The server was an important part of the Keyhole product line
(Keyhole EarthServer). However, after Keyhole
was bought by Google, there was no mention of the server
on Google's site.
- ILWIS 3D DEM Pro
- A simple DEM viewer for Windows, was $200 from
MS MacroSystem, Netherlands;
no mention of price in 2013.
- can draw contours, supports stereo rendering
- uses GDAL to support a large number of heightfield formats
- $$$ from Intergraph
- ERDAS Imagine is a high-end GIS package, with a realtime 3D
- over 90 different raster and vector formats
- a reviewer said "while moving around, the different resolution sectors
were visible, as there is a sudden change from low resolution to high resolution"
- $? from Supresoft (Hong Kong)
- Claims "GIS 3D visualization, 3D environment modeling, true 3D landscape
reconstruction, virtual reality, real time roaming for huge amount of data
- Options include MagiXity for city modelling and IMAGIS 3DBrowser, some sort of standalone viewer
- Reportedly, they have a strong following in China and Japan.
- It is hard to tell more, because as of 2011, there is no English on
their website; Chinese only.
K2VI (Key to Virtual Insight)
- a GIS-oriented 3D terrain package from AAM (New Zealand)
- the main app is a tool for "modeling, manipulation and analysis of 2D/3D
GIS data and 3D CAD data within a Virtual Reality environment" with a impressive
list of features including
realtime shadow analysis
- connects directly to SDE (Spatial Database Engine) and Oracle Spatial
- reads numerous formats including SHP, ArcInfo ASCII/Binary Grids, DTED,
Socet Set, and many 3D model formats
- stereo rendering, VR hardware support, SQL queries, 3D sound, road
- originally built on the WorldToolKit library by Sense8; probably
ported at some point later
- a set of several CAD tools for modelling terrain, road and buildings
from Eagle Point
- some are standalone, others are made to run within AutoCAD or MicroStation
- Surface Modeling ($600): creates TIN terrain meshes
- Visual Landscaping [gone?] ($1200): includes fences and walls,
with a database of 1,100 plants, trees, shrubs
- Plant Database ($300) was the 1,100 plants by themselves
- Virtual Simulator ($300) was a runtime simulation environment, is it
- a suite of terrain products, built on Windows and OpenGL, from RIS (Rapid
- LandForm/Gold ($500) is a straightforward terrain overlay assembler and
viewer (DEM, GeoTIFF): drape and fly-over, export to VRML, stitch together model and map files from multiple adjacent areas, import, store and play back waypoints.
- LandForm/C3 ($1000) adds some additional file formats (e.g. DTED, CADRG)
TerrainServer ($25,000): "receives requests for a region of interest, checks on the availability
of the data, assembles the terrain model including overlay imagery,
topography, and entities and then ships the model to the client application."
- As of 2013, it seems the LandForm products are no longer sold, but
underlie their "SmartCam3D Fusion" product.
- €7500 from Bionatics (France)
- Complete package to import GIS data and model, construct a 3D scene,
visualize and create presentations.
- In addition to the usual elevation and imagery inputs, it supports procedural
construction of trees, linear features like roads/rivers/railways/powerlines.
- Procedural ground detail including rocks, and fairly realistic vegetation
with automated distribution
- Scenarios and a time feature, to show the scene at different times,
or a planning scene with project alternatives.
- Tried the Saint-Privat demo on 2009-03-24. Good: It is an impressive
complex scene. It runs smoothly at a high framerate. The procedural
ground detail looks good. Bad: The plant billboards are unrealistic,
very dark and blocky, although this is partially compensated by having a
large number of species. It consumes a surprising 1.2 GB of RAM to
run, at 100% CPU even when minimized. There is no interaction to the
demo besides flying around.
€500 from 3D Geo GmbH for the LandXplorer Studio application; as of 2009
it is now Autodesk LandXplorer.
- realtime flyover and interaction with both physical and abstract terrain
- does draping of multiple textures, runtime LOD for both elevation and
textures, and automatic recording of video sequences
- originally built on top of
an object-oriented C++ 3D graphics library project of German academics,
primarily Jurgen Döllner
- Modeling and Animation Machine (MAM) is the scene graph API
- Virtual Rendering System (VRS) is the lower-level rendering API
- related academic papers, postscript files available
on their site:
- J. Döllner, K. Hinrichs: Geo-Visualization
with the 3D Modeling and Animation Machine. IEEE Proceedings
Computer Graphics International, 1998
- K. Baumann, J. Döllner, K. Hinrichs,
O. Kersting: A Hybrid, Hierarchical Data Structure for Real-Time
Terrain Visualization, IEEE Computer Graphics International
'99, 85-92, 1999
- J. Döllner, K. Hinrichs: An Object-Oriented
Approach for Integrating 3D Visualization Systems and GIS, in print,
Computers & Geosciences, Elsvier, 1999
- G. Buziek, J. Döllner: Concept and
Implementation of an Interactive, Cartographic Virtual Reality System.
International Cartographic Conference, Ottawa, 1999
- $50 from Daylon Graphics
- easy-to-use terrain/heightfield/bumpmap modeler for Windows
- many, many editing features - like a paint program for heightfields
- imports from bitmaps, NTF, SDTS, DEM, raw binary and some GIS formats
- imports/exports to TerraGen, BT, more
- exports to several 3D formats
- LSS Vista
/ 3D Vantage
- £500 per year from DTM
Software (McCarthy Taylor) (UK)
- marketed to the application of virtual terrain called DTM - "Digital
Terrain Modelling", which focuses on small areas (single plots of land)
and deals heavily with contour lines and earth-modifying operations
- visualization includes draping imagery and realtime flythroughs
- uses: "Land Surveying - Road Building - Construction - Civil Engineering
- Earth Moving - Mining - Waste Management - Dredging - Accident Investigation
- Environmental Management - Archaeology - Geology - Visual and Environmental
- Makai Voyager
from Makai Ocean Engineering, Inc. (Oahu, Hawaii)
- A very powerful viewer for large elevation, imagery, and LIDAR data,
in a unified global viewing interface.
- It comes with access to several large online datasets, including
bathymetry, aerial coverage of Oahu, a colorized LIDAR dataset of
Ottawa, Canada, and even volumetric data of a hurricane.
- Version 1.2 (beta, January 2013) exposes Voyager's import
capabilities. I did a brief evaluation, and import didn't work
particularly well; elevation scale was wrong, navigation had bugs,
imagery didn't appear at full resolution, LAS import failed.
Import might more correctly be called an alpha.
- Despite that, as a viewer for the supplied datasets, it remains
impressive, if a bit unstable.
- $300 from Digital Wisdom
- creates simple relief maps in both 2D and 3D
- imports USGS DEM, SDTS DEM, Landform Panorama NTF
- textures can be draped over height data, but the sample images don't
- uses OpenGL, but not for realtime rendering (?)
- Microsoft - Virtual Flights, Virtual
Earth/Bing, Encarta Globe, Simulator products, etc.
- Natural Scene Designer
- $140/$330 from Natural Graphics, Mac/Win32
- non-realtime landscape renderer, can create QuickTimeVR panoramas
- imports DEMs, SDTS, and GTOPO30, can drape DRGs
- cheap, but not as impressive output as the more expensive landscape
Novapoint Virtual Map
- $? from Vianova Systems Finland Oy /
Novapoint, developed by
- An add-on tool for AutoCAD-based applications for creating terrain scenes
and distributing them with a viewer, including an ActiveX viewer for web
- Requires and extends AutoCAD and Autodesk MAP. As an example of
its CAD focus, importing of elevation such as DEM is done by first converting
it to AutoCAD '3D Face' elements(!)
- The ActiveX viewer is quite nice, with smooth rendering and good camera
control, although it has a strange habit of aggressively culling on-screen
- pricing is mysterious; there is nothing in English online about how
it might be purchased
- from Nineteenseventyfive (South Africa) (2002)
- advanced terrain runtime includes continuous LOD, terrain and texture
paging, seamless from sub-meter pixels to full spherical planet
- very portable (Windows, Linux, consoles, etc.)
- uses a combination of custom tools and
ER Mapper (was $5k) for database development
- high-end tools from Harris Corp. for creating city models and doing
visualization and simple analysis
- appears to be mostly intended for the wireless antenna placement market
- InReality (runtime)
- $3500 for Win32, $4500 for Irix
- has features like "Mensuration" which allow the user to interactively
measure between any two points and get the current distance and location
- RealSite (urban model builder)
- provided on a variable-cost service basis, not a standard product
- claims to input: "NIMA standards, COTS CAD and geospatial tools"
- claims to output: Inventor, FLT, VRML, SEDRIS, Shapefiles
- can (semi-)automatically produce texture maps for the building geometry
- At the release of Microsoft's Virtual Earth 3D in November 2006, RealSite
was revealed to be the source of VE3D's building models.
- A tool for the "construction and maintenance of geospecific and geotypical
- Imports models from diverse data source for rapid scene assembly; exports
to OpenFlight, 3DSMAX, directX
- Fast procedural generation of infrastructure including road networks, with
a focus on driving simulators.
- It appears to be used primarily in customized solutions for teh
Vis-Sim industry by the Dutch company that makes it,
- Terrain modeling plugin for non-realtime rendering package Rhino 4.0
- Typical price $660, or $128 educational
- Input can be "points, pointclouds, curves, meshes" and apparently USGS
- Triangulates the input, supports breaklines
- "Geographical Feature Detection" identifies areas such as water surfaces,
apparently by their normals
from Analytical Graphics (AGI) comes in three levels: Basic (free), Professional,
and Expert, with many optional Add-On Modules
- Displays realistic 3D views of "space, airborne and terrestrial assets,
sensor projections, orbit trajectories and assorted visual cues and analysis
- Pricing ranges greatly based on options ($700 up to $80k), with
discounts for academic/noncommercial users
- In 2012, they released a free WebGL engine called
Cesium that can
display and interpolate time-dynamic data from the STK family of
- ScienceGL Geo
- a set of 3D scientific visualization software which includes capabilities
for realtime elevation rendering
- supports labels, contours, animation output, stereo display, and a very
large number of formats via GDAL
- $200, and they are happy to provide custom features upon request
- a software suite from Simmersion of Australia, with an office in the
- $4,125/yr, or less if only part of the software is needed
- consists of three applications (World Generator, Environment Editor,
World Simulator) for the complete process from input data to visualization
- format support is modest (just DXF for elevation) but the runtime claims
good scaling, "a single built environment can be over 1000 sq. km,
smooth rendering of over 5 million polygons."
- the company also provides 3D modelling, development and consulting services
- they have the major data provider
GetMapping as a business partner
- €2000 for their Builder, with a free Viewer, from French company SPACEYES
- multi-layered rendering, with both raster and vector GIS layers draped
on the terrain
- directly imports elevation grids from DEM (GeoTiff, MapInfo ASCII grid),
ortho-images from GeoTiff, ECW, etc. and GIS vector from Shape, Mapinfo,
- OpenGL-based rendered, adapted ROAM (adaptive quadtree) algorithm for
the 3D model, memory-paged approach for texture
- capability to add 3D models (3DS, VRML), text labels, image and icons,
and to digitize vector features in the model
- AVI movies, high-resolution screen shots and 360° panoramic views
- the free Viewer has some features to compute thematic maps from elevation
(shaded relief, slope map, aspect map, colored relief, contour lines) utilizing
- suite of technologies from Skyline Software -
- licensing is around $15k for the SDK, $50k for Builder, and $2k/seat
for the pro runtime (includes tools), free runtime
- uses a DirectX-based renderer with support for "3D clouds"
- claims to have no limitations on terrain or texture resolution
- very weird technical claims - supposedly "the terrain is rendered using
a ray tracing algorithm and so the 3D acceleration has no effect." !!
- TerraBuilder imports elevation from .bmp, .mpt, .mpu, .grw, .raw
- Terramodel Visualizer
- part of the Terramodel and HYDROpro Terramodel product lines ($$) from
- the products do the full range of DTM operations from gathering points
through creating models; the visualization aspect is a small part of the
- basic Terramodel with simple 3D functionality is included with the purchase
of Trimble GPS or TotalStation hardware;
additional modules with
DTM features can put the total cost anywhere from $1000 to $15000; most
users will only need a few of these modules
- Around $23k from TerraSim, Inc.
- services-oriented company, focusing on accuracy rather than realistic
- imports from DEM, DTED, DLG, LULC, DOQ, more
- Creates TIN meshes with integrated roads.
- Exports to FLT, VBS2, Steel Beasts Pro, Havok Vision Engine, Havok
Tools, and the SWORD runtime from MASA Group.
- "3D real-time solution for visualizing high-res 3D terrain data interactively",
for Windows, from ViewTec Ltd. (was
Swiss, now USA)
- Product is TerrainView-Globe ($900-$5625), with add-on modules RemoteControl
($4500), CMAX ($2250), Video ($2250), Web (free), and view-only apps TerrainView
($750), TerrainView-Lite (free)
- does terrain LOD (Terrex Inc. SmartMesh)
- can import all common elevation, raster, vector, and 3D model formats
- interaction includes querying the terrain, manipulating culture objects,
labeling points of interest, defining flight paths, recording to AVI, and
- they also offer "a commercial internet streaming service of high resolution
digital 3D databases covering different countries"
- with the Web add-on, content can be read directly from the web, and
the viewer is available as an OCX
- On 2004.05.18, did a brief evaluation of the
- around $15k (as of 2000) from Presagis
(was Terrex, Terrain Experts Inc.)
- high-end software for generating terrain intended for realtime rendering
- "revolutionary SmartMesh™ (patent pending) technology which surpasses
all existing triangulation schemes with seamless interblock boundaries"
- organized in rectangular regions but uses interblock polygons to
match between levels of detail across these regions
- integrates roads and rivers into the terrain skin
- input: DLG-O, LULC, DFAD, DTED, Shape, and DEM (1-degree and UTM-based
- "only supports a single UTM USGS DEM at one time"
- output: OpenFlight™ or their own "TerraPage" format for large area paging
- comes preconfigured with ~500 texture patterns for soil, trees, urban
areas, water, roads, and fences
- these patterns are derived from the texture library published by
- three terrain visualization products (Viewer, Designer, Editor) from
Italian company Terra Nova
- their summary of functionality: "maps from raster formats (DTM, Slopes,
Exposition, Shading, etc.), maps from vector formats (2D or 3D TIN Shapefile,
level curves, altimetric bands, regular points grids, etc), 3D processing
(add altitudes to 2D or 3D Shapefiles, calculate the 3D area in a polygonal
Shapefile, calculate volume differences)"
- they are Windows applications, and web viewers including IE plugin,
Java and Flash-based
- there are extensions for Weather, Time, and Floods
- as of 2008, the site seems a little old ('news' is from 2004, screenshots
are missing, Flash demos are 404, trying to log in gives an ODBC error)
- SDK imports elevation and imagery, its runtime does fast CLOD
rendering, i.e. "consumes unlimited amounts of geodata and processes
them into ready-to-use terrain modules."
- It is classic right-angle TIN CLOD like from the 1990s, but it
handles grids up to 1 Billion x 1 Billion heixels. As they point
out, this compares favorably to game engines like Unreal (8k*8k), and
CryEngine and Unity (4k*4k).
- Unique and material textures, decal textures, texture splatting.
- Keeps GPU terrain data in a single vertex buffer and a single index
buffer, draws the terrain as a single triangle strip(!)
- from German company TrianGraphics; €9900 for standard package, more
for modules (Geotypic, Roads (advanced), Airport, Buildings (advanced))
- A vis-sim oriented scene building application.
You import a variety of elevation, image and vector data, and it writes
a FLT file with the whole scene, ready for use in a vis-sim runtime environment.
- Built on OSG and hence
supports .osg/.ive formats directly; OSG works as a free viewer for
- Extensive generation of geotypical databases, including randomized distribution
of rural and urban buildings, with procedural geometry
- Can import road data from OpenStreetMap, Navteq, etc. Can export to
- Library of "high quality environment real-time models with 500
entries including buildings, vehicles, vegetation etc."
- Several attractive demo scenes available in OSG and FLT formats.
- In 2011, they
licensed the popular game middleware
Gamr7 Ürban PAD, for
"flexible, dynamic and lightweight buildings", although Gam7 itself
folded in April 2012.
- fairly simple non-realtime renderer for textured heightfields
- $300, but the free demo provides nearly all functionality
- reads GTOPO30, SDTS Raster Profiles, and several flavors of DEM
- requires converting them to an intermediate 24-bit TGA file
- includes an innovative free tool
- automatically retrieves USGS DEMs from various servers, gets the
corresponding texture information from the
Tiger server and adapts these
two data sources such that they fit together perfectly
- UniView Halo
- specialized visualization engine for planetariums, primarily for astronomical
rendering, from Swedish company
- it has a planet rendering option,
Halo Surfaces (no
relation to the Halo game) which uses Duchaineau's ROAM2 algorithm
for "planetary surfaces of arbitrary resolution"
- pricing isn't mentioned, presumably far less expensive than the planetarium
hardware it's designed for
- works on single-display PC platforms, fisheye PC platforms and multichannel
SGI and PC platforms.
- Virtual Global Explorer and Observatory
- from MechDyne, high-end,
- pricing is specific to each customer
- an "interactive data fusion and visual analysis tool" for general data
visualization, which includes some terrain functionality
- supports primarily scientific data formats such as netCDF and HDF, but
not common terrain formats such as DEM
- Visual Nature Studio
from 3D Nature, for Windows, dongle-protected
- non-realtime terrain rendering package, more fully-featured version
of World Construction Set (see Artificial Terrain
- adds a very large number of features, including support for diverse
projections, georeferenced imagery, queries to feature databases, randomizing
of objects, procedural generation of walls and simple buildings, OpenGL
preview, irregularly shaped terrain, more
- 3DNWorld is a user's community site
for users of WCS and VNS to exchange components, share tutorials and show
off their work - some is artwork and fantasy, but an increasing amount is
accurate, non-realtime terrain visualization!
- they have a useful page of
Sources for DEM and Vector Data
- Terrain engine,
from French developers, with
a huge list of features.
- Paging of elevation/imagery databases, landscape terraforming (deserts,
rain forests, mountains, etc.) with local vegetation, variable weather conditions
(wind, temperature, snow, rain, mist, sandstorms, etc.) and advancing time
(dawn, daylight, dusk, night), autonomous animals and vehicles, blended
procedural textures, extrusion of buildings for rapid urban scenes, and
- VWorldTerrain is the engine that was used in the
edutainment title (2000-2002, see
Tourism page) which has continued development
since that time.
- There is a viewer platform/SDK (vieWTerra)
based on the VWorldTerrain engine, with a pricing structure starting at
- Terrain Tools ($11,000) generates scenes and VRSG ($10,000) provide the
runtime and SDK
- from MetaVR, Inc.
- expensive tools which appear to be mostly oriented toward military customers
- claims to support massive data such as large areas at 1m resolution
- add-on tools for interfacing with maps ($7000) only mentions military
- AccuTrans 3Da>
- $20 Windows program; as described on their
it can import some grid formats (Scenery Animator, VistaPro, 1-degree DEM
and GTOPO30) and export to a traditional 3D modeler format (around 20 formats)
- another conversion tool which sees some use for terrain data in the
vis-sim field, $400 from Okino
- See also: Terrain in
Conventional 3D Modeling Software
There are a few visualization applications which support terrain rendering
to a limited degree as the background for architectural visualization.
- €900 for Windows, from Act-3D™, Leiden, Netherlands; Lite version for
- reads a large variety of CAD and conventional 3D model formats
- has a realtime environment for composing scenes, then exports to either
an executable viewer or a web site
- supports a lot of sophisticated rendering features, including dynamic
and reflective surface, shadows, particle systems, etc.
- the terrain and vegetation are simple, since the focus is meant to be
on the architectural model
3D Fishing Software
- from Seabed Mapping (SMI Ltd.), New Zealand
- shows the boat, the seabed, the fish, the gear, all in a real time,
animated 3D landscape
- combines their pre-loaded bathymetry data with the user's GPS and soundings
- comes in two flavors: Deepsea - 40m grid and Inshore - 2.5m grid
- cost is approx $6000 NZ dollars ($4000 US) and includes a high end PC
with graphics card
Domain-specific: Outdoor sports
- A set of software packages and bundles designed for "free flight, motor
flight, 4x4, mountain bike, hiking, quad and enduro" (€80-up, for Windows)
- The company sells and supports a variety of gadgets and geodata to use
in conjunction with the software
- Communicates to and from GPS devices and formats; reads .map, .ecw,
.sid, .kap, .geo, .mpv, .e00, .dxf, .dwg plus all common image formats
Domain-specific: Traffic Simulation
- Synchro Studio 3D
- $1000 from Trafficware, presumably
Windows-only. Works with their SimTraffic software ($3000)
or included with the Studio bundle ($4000)
- Generates a 3D scene from the simulation data. Shows vehicles,
pedestrians, mast-arm signals, buildings trees and roadways.
- Simulation runs inside the 3D view, so you can follow vehicles around,
- Output to AVI. Input formats for models unknown, the website has
very little info.
- $5800 standard / $9000 advanced, from
- Assembles complex scenes of transportation infrastructure
- Very large feature set: day and night, weather, shadows, dynamic LOD,
tunnels and bridges, trees, animated pedestrians (md3), multiple displays,
interface with Autodesk Civil 3D, LandXML
- Supports "several driving modes (speed of car, lane changing, height
of viewpoint, viewpoint switching in 8 directions) and dynamic movement
of viewpoint (from other car, up and down, turn head). Auto flight by flight
path setting (editing on 3D screen is available), walk through. And more
advanced simulation can be executed with a manual driving which supports
3D cockpit and multi-monitor."
- a turnkey solution providing realtime 3D visualization of terrain with
high-resolution image datasets (2ft US Cities, 15m rest of US) tightly integrated
realtime 3D radar weather data, analysis and forecast
- as of 2005, now appearing in many TV stations across the US, broadcasting
live flyovers by weather announcers
Domain-specific: Vehicle GPS
- As of 2008, there are (rudimentary) realtime 3D terrain visualizations
that run on mobile platforms (iPhone, Windows Mobile, etc.)
- as an example, Novlum's Urban Horizon
GPS software even includes 3D building models for landmarks
Old / Historical
- 3-D TopoQuads
DeLorme, was around $100 per U.S. state for 6 CDROMs or 1 DVD
- consists of the normal USGS DRGs, optionally draped on rather low-resolution
- you can only view one quad at a time, rather than flying seamlessly
over the whole state
- Direct3D: "3D map view not supported on Windows NT"
- could network with GPS and PDA units
- related DeLorme product Topo
USA 8.0 (was $100) did only non-realtime rendering, but added some impressive
capabilities such as rendering trees on the green areas of the DRGs
- Autometric EDGE
- seems to have vanished when Boeing bought Autometric in 2000
- ultra-high-end terrain tools, from a military/government background
- Edge was the base product, with plugins ImageScape and TerrainScape
- capable of paging any amount of image texture on demand, written in
- CityScape from PixelActive Inc.
a year of email support.
- Required a graphics card with shader model 3.0. An interactive tool to draw heightfields and water, place roads and
buildings and trees. Very smooth and easy to use, with spline roads that deform the landscape
in realtime, pretty water and shadow rendering, 3D tree models, power lines,
and even traffic flow models on the roads.
- Apparently meant for game developers to quickly create large scenes,
with Collada export as the art path. Has some "support for importing GIS data, allowing geospecific modeling
of real world locations", with a demo of imported elevation from NED and
roads from SHP.
- With version 1.8, it could import from OpenStreetMap and import/export
FBX, PTF, FLT, DAE..
- In November 2010, PixelActive was bought by
Nokia’s Navteq. As of January
2013, there is no 3D visible on the Navteq site; whatever happened to
- EaSIEST and Integrator
- from E&S, high-end packages for producing "large-area simulation databases",
i.e. terrain for Vis Sim
- Integrator (NT-only)
- "integrates database elements from a wide variety of sources into
rich 3-D synthetic environments"
- brings in terrain models from MultiGen II Pro/NT or 3DS MAX
- geographic data is preprocessed in GeoBuilder 2D, an ESRI ARC/INFO
- aerial photographs and satellite images are processed with SOCET
SET from GDE Systems
- EaSIEST (NT and Unix)
- like a combination of MultiGen's Creator 3D, Arc/Info, and PhotoShop
- targeted a lower-end market than Integrator
- Ecomodeler / Ecoviewer
was Can$6000, Can$150 for a 90-day eval, from Viewscape3D (defunct company as
- Ecoviewer is the realtime viewer component of their software, which
can be distributed freely; the purpose of Ecomodeler is to process raw data
to produce scenes for Ecoviewer
- forestry-oriented ("automated tool for silviculture
and logging plans")
- imports ESRI GIS formats, includes large tree library, allows realtime
- GeoData Editor is the DEM editing component, standalone for
Can$250: supports ESRI formats, DEM, DTED, Surfer, PGM, WCS formats, DTM,
and both read and write support for
- a terrain viewer (G-Vista), scene graph editor (G-Scene), and rendering
library (G-Render) from G-Graphix
- no fixed price; sold by special arrangement with each customer
- features CLOD, streaming of huge terrain datasets, integration of 2D
features and 3D models
- support both OpenGL and D3D
- uses its own ".g3d" file format
- Windows-only, primary usage of the runtime is as an ActiveX control
- a set of products, for Windows, from company GeoVirtual in Barcelona,
- GeoShow3D Lite was a free viewer for their format (.gs files)
- GeoShow3D Client and GeoShow3D Pro added capabilities including editing
and creation of new terrain scenes
- they are flexible about non-commercial use of their commercial products
- used an adapted ROAM algorithm for the 3D model of the terrain, a disk-paged
quad-tree approach for textures, and high compression for reading online
- it seems the company was liquidated in 2011
- GeoTango GlobeView
- Earth viewer, from global down to local scale, streams data via internet
- claims a large list of features: maps, transportation, weather, demographics,
history, location based services, local search, driving directions, place
finder, proximity analyzer, measuring, analysis, etc.
- "supports XML and OpenGIS etc industry standards"
- the site gave no indication at all of how the product might be sold
- December 2005, they were bought by Microsoft
- Not exactly a terrain software tool - more of a tourism application,
as they put it, "a Zen like and ecological form of entertainment".
See review on Tourism page.
- An open-source solution (with commercial support at some point from lat/lon GmbH) for administration of digital city models, terrain models
and corresponding textures, built on the
deegree Java open-source GIS/SDI platform.
- "The base of deegree iGeo3D is CityFeatureStore, a 3D database schema
for 3D city models that can be implemented in different database systems.
CityFeatureStore is accessed using deegree Web Feature Service which supports
CityGML. deegree Web Terrain Service and the 3D-module of iGeoportal also
allows to visualize building and terrain models."
.NET control for developers to add 3D visualization to existing application,
e.g. aerospace and GIS. Free for non-commercial use
- can display lines, great arcs, rhumb lines, points, markers, surface
polygons, images, text, COLLADA 3D models, 2D screen overlays, video and
- has rigorous astrodynamics for e.g. planets' shapes, orbits, attitudes,
and rotations, the position of the Sun
- As of 2012, it seems it got merged into
AGI (makers of STK)
- $? from IT Spatial , "The 3D GIS Company"
- a set of 3 products: InterSCOPE Enterprise Server, InterSCOPE Analyst,
- the Analyst and Viewer modules communicate with the Server via "secure
- intended applications: Security Planning, Assessment, & Training, Command
Center Operations, Urban & Transportation Planning
Leica / ERDAS Virtual Explorer
- Released 2006 as Leica Virtual Explorer suite of software for "sharing, via the web and streaming,
terabytes of spatial information in a 3D environment."
- It is a suite of 6 different applications, Virtual Explorer Architect
for scene construction, Client and Pro Client for viewing and manipulating,
DVD and Server options for distributing data, Collaboration for multi-user
- The feature list for Architect is very long: read just about all raster and
vector formats, 3D models from MAX and FLT, flexible navigation, animation
and scripting, create culture interactively, LOD control, database queries,
geocoding, visibility analysis, measure distances and slopes, and much more.
- Prices depended entirely on how the technology is configured and used.
- Their initial demonstration dataset was Calgary, Canada.
- After Intergraph bought Leica/ERDAS, as of 2012 it's not clear what
became of the Virtual Explorer software?
- MapCube Urban Viewer
- expensive, high-end urban modelling software, plus data for Japanese
- produced by three Japanese companies:
- PASCO is a GIS/LIDAR company
providing aerial datasets
- CAD Center is a large
3D production house, providing automated building construction and texture
- iPC is a GIS data / car
navigation company, with data such as building footprints
- Review by Michael Flaxman, July
- the product itself was somewhat confusing, with different terminology
on each company's site: called variously MAP CUBE, Urban Viewer, and Cyber
- $500 from RSI - Research Systems Inc.
- works extensively with HDF files (Hierarchical Data Format)
- primarily for "easy access to large quantities of technical, multidimensional
- terrain capabilities are still fairly minimal, but improving
- seems to have completely vanished by 2009
- PowerScene aka. CVPS
- a "3D visualization technology" package from Cambridge Research Associates,
- high-end, SGI-only, appeared to only be used for their own in-house
- $500 for Windows from My3D LLC, which also provides a lot of consulting
- Converts raw engineering data (DWG/DXF/GIS) data to very nice 3D road
models. Generates road models using LODs for improved performance, and supports
placement of periodic and unique features such as light posts, signs, and
hyperlinks. Output is FLT or VRML.
- TerrainServer (2002)
- from Refractions Research,
who comes from the web map server field, licensed through
- apparently works as middleware, by taking imagery from an existing map
server (e.g. ArcIMS or an OGC WMS)
and rendering it in 3D, then sending that image down to the client browser
- because of this approach, requirements on the client are minimal, but
of course it is awkwardly non-realtime
- TerrainViz extension for
- $? from TGS (now Mercury
Computer Systems, Inc.)
- OpenInventor is a cross-platform (Windows, UNIX, Linux) C++ library
- TerrainViz is an optional extension for terrain rendering
- features: adaptive simplification, paging of large textures
- A set of plugins for non-realtime terrain rendering with support for
large imagery, plugin available for LightWave, with plugins for Maya and 3DS MAX in
- $4200 commercial / $3600 educational, $400/year support
- the company also does service work to do the terrain scene construction
and rendering themselves
- they read ECW (ER Mapper's wavelet format) in order to handle huge textures
- VTree (API)
- vis-sim oriented, commercial, portable OpenGL-based API from
- claims to have significant terrain feature support:
- "Polygonal or gridded terrains; Query for elevation, slopes, texture, material, and more; Generate directly from DTED CDs; Supports hierarchical terrains for efficient culling; Multiple LODs supported"