Visualizing subterranean infrastructure with Augmented Reality

 

The SIM application (Subterranean Infrastructure Map App and Service) is developed to ease construction and digging projects by visualizing underground infrastructure with augmented reality.

Augmented reality (AR) is a live direct or indirect view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are augmented (or supplemented) by computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics or GPS data[1]. The applications EVRY develop uses augmented reality technology to present cadastral data which is distributed by the proDataMarket platform. With a connection to proDataMarket, SIM downloads subterranean infrastructure data that exists at the user location. This data is then used to visualize the underground grid of pipes and cables as well as give information about the pipe or cable. If there are a lot of pipes in a given area there could potentially be too much information to augment at a time. The user can then filter out pipe groups (such as water, sewage, electricity) to be able to get a more relevant view.

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Relevant information could be a pipes depth, the pipes owner as well as the age and material of the pipe. An issue with data like this is that it is often private. Data are also often owned by different actors, and a challenge is to give them incentive to share their data.

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One of the major technical challenges the development team have been facing, is the lack of accuracy on mobile devices. The GPS receivers and built-in compass on mobile devices are not accurate enough to give an exactly correct representation of the pipe grid. It is possible however to increase the GPS accuracy by using an external GPS receiver. But even though the GPS is correct, a small error with the heading will still create unwanted results. In addition to positioning, another challenge is the data quality in a given area. To create a good augmented reality experience, the framework needs to know the height above mean sea level. This is not always given information in the data set.

 

To accommodate these challenges, SIM has a calibration functionality that can “move” the pipe grid according to a given heading. It also has a call to “Google Elevation Service” to get the pipe grids height so that it does not rely on elevation data. If the augmented experience is still not sufficient, SIM also includes a 2d Map so the user may get an overview of the pipe grid

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If the user for some reason does not want to use the device camera (i.e. poor lightning conditions, broken lens etc.) or does not want to relocate to see the pipe grid, a Google Street View module is also implemented. This is a regular Google street view, with the pipe grid integrated so the user can stay at one location and see the pipe grid at another location.

 

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Augmented_reality

 

Proof of Concept with Augmented Reality

 

The potential of the proDataMarket platform is huge, and by letting third party actors use and contribute to the “big data” platform, the potential could be even greater. To show how proDataMarket can be utilized, EVRY is developing two mobile applications that rely on proDataMarket service. The applications combine data from proDataMarket along with “augmented reality technology” to give the user a visual representation of the data. By doing this, EVRY will help contractors, construction or municipalities visualize future building projects. This is done with two iPad applications. The first application show underground infrastructure such as pipes and cables. The other application augments a 3D model in a real world scene.

Augmented reality (AR) is a live direct or indirect view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are augmented (or supplemented) by computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics or GPS data [1]. The applications EVRY develops uses augmented reality technology to present cadastral data, distributed by proDataMarket. By doing this the applications can show underground structure on the screen (through the device camera), as well as 3D models of future building projects in a “real world scene” with information about the surroundings. This is done by having a 3D-model with correct measurement data (relative to its real world size), and by knowing the distance between a desired location and the user, the model can be scaled to the correct size according to the distance. Of course, if the user decides to manipulate the model (i.e. scaling it up), the size/distance relationship will be invalid. The 3D model augmentation can ease both private and commercial building projects by giving a visual presentation of how a building may look in a landscape.

The development process has been a process of trail and error and different augmented reality SDK have been examined. In the end the development team chose “Wikitude SDK [2]” to handle the augmentation processing. The task of augmenting a custom 3D model at a desired location is a suitable task for Wikitude SDK. By setting the model as a “Point of Interest” (POI) and using “GeoLocation”, the user can set the model at a desired location in a 2D map (Google map).

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The model will be scaled to the correct size relative to the distance from the user. When a model is placed, Wikitude will augment the model and the user can see and manipulate with onscreen controls.

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The manipulation controls are necessary because the iPad compass and location service are not accurate enough to get a satisfying result. If a user needs to place a model at a very exact location, there must be some way to tweak and calibrate the model. All in all, there are still some bugs left to fix in the applications, but the main functionality is in place and we are looking forward to show demos of what we have made.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Augmented_reality

[2] http://www.wikitude.com/