The model includes building facades so it can generate genuine street level views. It also has aerial views looking straight down, or from any intermediate altitude.
The system is the outcome of many years’ development. In 1999, the Seoul metropolitan government launched the Urban Planning Information System project. Phase 1 of UPIS ran from 1999 to 2002 and cost $60 million. A second phase takes it up to the present day – at a cost of an additional $10 million.
An infrastructure management system has been integrated into the current model.
Inguen Lee, the director of the urban planning bureau, said: ‘We had a daunting task. There were two major design objectives. We had to manage the construction of tall buildings while also managing residents’ view lines to parks, rivers and the surrounding mountains in the high density Seoul core. The city has 12 million residents.
‘In trying to meet these needs properly, we found that using 3D technology gave us a better understanding of the impact of potential developments.
‘For example, we can now undertake simulation of the city skyline from random viewpoints. We can evaluate the changes in topography caused by a new development in ways that we could not in the past.’
Seoul plans to promote community participation in city planning by providing city residents with web access to the system. Apart from improving the planning process, this will also aid the tourism sector by bringing in more foreign visitors.
Woodai Cals Ltd developed the system for the Seoul local government. Company president Kyungmin Kim said: ‘Our goal is to be the premier company in the development of virtual world solution provider.
Grafting the system onto the internet in this interactive fashion has also opened up new business opportunities. An increasing number of service companies are adopting 3D technology.
For example, search services originally developed for the system are now providing access to online restaurant reservations and real time traffic information. This has led to the creation of new advertisement markets.
Other areas of prospective opportunities include real estate services. Clients can now be offered satellite images, 3D imagery modelling on the pictures, e-commerce linked to 3D maps, and virtual 3D websites.