Disrupting Reality: Creating a legacy for visualisation

June, 05, 2019

Times have changed. Radically and rapidly. A decade or so ago, one had to physically visit, rely on photography or read some descriptive literature to get to know about a place otherthan that you live in. In today’s digital world, the availability of advanced technology has made it possible for us to get to know and experience other places outside our immediate world.

Most of us are familiar with the Google maps app. The app allows us to view most locations around the world through a 2D, 3D or interactive street map.

Closer to home, the Planning Authority and the University of Malta together with a wide stakeholder involvement have embarked on a more ambitious and ground breaking project. The project is  revolutionising data as we know it. Nicknamed SIntegraM, this EU project, financed by the European Regional Development Fund is enabling us to transform the way we ‘experience’ Malta. Not only are we moving from 2D into Virtual Reality (VR) but we are taking it even further. New techonological advancements have been developed for us to introduce Augmented Reality (AR) and Mixed Reality (MR).

With AR will bring elements of the virtual world, into our real world. Therefore we will be better positioned to enhance the things we see, hear, and feel. This technology finds the middle ground between our real world and the virtual world. Through MR, we will be better placed to blending the physical world with the digital world, whereby we can start to visualize potential scenarios.  All and much more than this is possible. Through SIntegraM we have sought the past, understood the present and are projecting for the future.

Today we are better placed to take a snapshot of our environment, travel within it and review the likely impact if a change is put into affect. We can better understand and visualize the threat of rising sea levels, the impact of major development projects, the potential of underwater exploration, the better appreciation of our cultural heritage treasures and much more. 

Over the past years we have garnered experience and insight in data capture and its conversion to information. Now we are showing foresight and moving ahead with a project which will have a long lasting effect. This platform is empowering society to be more knowledgable, leading to a better understanding of the natural, physical and social environments that encompass us.

But how is this achieved: what is behind these deliverables? This is where technology comes in.....

The SIntegraM project is a veritable integration of technology, processes and visuals which provide tools to policy makers, experts and the public alike to better understand the world around them. Through the project, large datasets are being gathered in order to understand the structure of buildings, fortifications, roads, reservoirs, tunnels, cliffs, coast and a plethora of structures that make up our environmental and urban realities.

At this stage, the Planning Authority (PA) as lead partner and the University of Malta as project consultants, are engaged in integrating different types of scanning technologies that capture data from the air, on the ground, underground and underwater. The technologies are the most advanced in Europe and will enable Malta to have the capacity to carry out its own data capture rather than depending on other external entities. This will bring Malta at the forefront of data capture, analysis and will lead to better policy making and decision taking, on an ongoing basis.

The terrestrial (land-based) scanner employs high-end technology which is set in a special vehicle that captures a cloud of points and colour to deliver a 3D model of building facades, building street furniture, road health, rubble walls, trees and any item that requires study and assessment. The technology will be available through a series of web-services through the PA’s website and the www.cloudisle.org

The public will also be able to view the data and appreciate the national jewels, identify areas that require intervention and become owners of this national information. Such can also be used for heritage and tourism, virtual experiences, gaming and futuristic study which will allow citizens to interact in virtual worlds and be part of disruption for a better society.

We are capturing reality, convert it into digital world of simuations where the public can be informed and take action. This places the power of information in the citizens’s domain.