Virtual 3D city and landscape models are the main subject investigated in this thesis. They digitally represent urban space and have many applications in different domains, e.g., simulation, cadastral management, and city planning. Visualization is an elementary component of these applications. Photo-realistic visualization with an increasingly high degree of detail leads to fundamental problems for comprehensible visualization. A large number of highly detailed and textured objects within a virtual 3D city model may create visual noise and overload the users with information. Objects are subject to perspective foreshortening and may be occluded or not displayed in a meaningful way, as they are too small.
In this thesis we present abstraction techniques that automatically process virtual 3D city and landscape models to derive abstracted representations. These have a reduced degree of detail, while essential characteristics are preserved. After introducing definitions for model, scale, and multiscale representations, we discuss the fundamentals of map generalization as well as techniques for 3D generalization.
The first presented technique is a cell-based generalization of virtual 3D city models. It creates abstract representations that have a highly reduced level of detail while maintaining essential structures, e.g., the infrastructure network, landmark buildings, and free spaces. The technique automatically partitions the input virtual 3D city model into cells based on the infrastructure network. The single building models contained in each cell are aggregated to abstracted cell blocks. Using weighted infrastructure elements, cell blocks can be computed on different hierarchical levels, storing the hierarchy relation between the cell blocks. Furthermore, we identify initial landmark buildings within a cell by comparing the properties of individual buildings with the aggregated properties of the cell. The initial landmark building objects are then used to compute a landmark hierarchy, which is aligned with the cell block hierarchy. For each block, the identified landmark building models are subtracted using Boolean operations and integrated in a photo-realistic way. Finally, for the interactive 3D visualization we discuss the creation of the virtual 3D geometry and their appearance styling through colors, labeling, and transparency. We demonstrate the technique with example data sets. Additionally, we discuss applications of generalization lenses and transitions between abstract representations.
The second technique is a real-time-rendering technique for geometric enhancement of landmark objects within a virtual 3D city model. Depending on the virtual camera distance, landmark objects are scaled to ensure their visibility within a specific distance interval while deforming their environment. First, in a preprocessing step a landmark hierarchy is computed, this is then used to derive distance intervals for the interactive rendering. At runtime, using the virtual camera distance, a scaling factor is computed and applied to each landmark. The scaling factor is interpolated smoothly at the interval boundaries using cubic Bézier splines. Non-landmark geometry that is near landmark objects is deformed with respect to a limited number of landmarks. We demonstrate the technique by applying it to a highly detailed virtual 3D city model and a generalized 3D city model. In addition we discuss an adaptation of the technique for non-linear projections and mobile devices.
The third technique is a real-time rendering technique to create abstract 3D isocontour visualization of virtual 3D terrain models. The virtual 3D terrain model is visualized as a layered or stepped relief. The technique works without preprocessing and, as it is implemented using Abstract 3 programmable graphics hardware, can be integrated with minimal changes into common terrain rendering techniques. Consequently, the computation is done in the rendering pipeline for each vertex, primitive, i.e., triangle, and fragment. For each vertex, the height is quantized to the nearest isovalue. For each triangle, the vertex configuration with respect to their isovalues is determined first. Using the configuration, the triangle is then subdivided. The subdivision forms a partial step geometry aligned with the triangle. For each fragment, the surface appearance is determined, e.g., depending on the surface texture, shading, and height-color-mapping. Flexible usage of the technique is demonstrated with applications from focus+context visualization, out-of-core terrain rendering, and information visualization.
This thesis presents components for the creation of abstract representations of virtual 3D city and landscape models. Re-using visual language from cartography, the techniques enable users to build on their experience with maps when interpreting these representations. Simultaneously, characteristics of 3D geovirtual environments are taken into account by addressing and discussing, e.g., continuous scale, interaction, and perspective.