Holographic GIS

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Holographs have been increasingly integrated with our daily lives and in industry. Take, for example, many airports now use holographic images to inform passengers about inspection requirements prior to entering the inspection area. For integration with GIS, however, holographic images are very much a recent development.

In one application area, power companies have utilized holographic GIS to better understand transmission lines and make arrangements for work without having to directly be there. This provides a powerful way for preparation in relation to work that can be dangerous and costly.[1]

Holographs in GIS do overlap and extend into virtual reality and augmented reality GIS (so called VRGIS and ARGIS) or even mixed reality. As mobile and handheld devices increasingly use these technologies, GIS has been incorporated to provide real-world capabilities in these environments. Esri’s CityEngine is one commercial platform that now accommodates hologram printing so that the engine can be used for urban planning purposes.[2] Other applications, such as vGIS, could also be for emergency planning and mass casualty evacuations that can be trained applying mixed reality environments.[3]

vGIS Utilities transforms GIS data into holograms to visualize underground features.
vGIS Utilities transforms GIS data into holograms to visualize underground features.

Architects and urban planners find that holographic capabilities within GIS not only allow for spatial awareness and planning, but the images can be printed or integrated with other sets of data to better make plans before starting projects. Similar to utilities companies, holographic GIS has the capability of saving time and money so that adequate planning can happen and visualized before it is physically created. Companies such as Zebra Imaging have stepped in to provide this service.[4]

One of the first urban services to deploy a spatial database and applying holographic capabilities was the Toms River Municipal Utilities Authority, where field teams could now access existing GIS data, stored in ArcGIS, but then visualized and assessed using a tool called Meemim vGIS.[5] Here, ArcGIS data shared on a cloud could be downloaded as needed and applied within a technology that uses glasses that create a mixed-reality type visualization and assessment tool for utilities workers. As with the other technologies, this makes the work quicker and more safe by reducing accidents.

Mobile and game development platforms are also incorporating not only holographs into their games but spatial capabilities that allow users a mixed reality experience. The fine line between gaming technologies and those that can be used for augmented experiences to visualize spatial regions for planning, development, safety and other purposes is, in fact, being blurred.[6]

Many of the existing products still may lack some of the analytical capabilities of advanced GIS systems. However, this is where these tools may focus in the coming year. In particular, existing vector and raster data could be turned into holographic data while the user experience continues to be improved. This is definitely one area of GIS that has a lot of room for growth and has only recently begun to be noticed by industry and academia alike.


[1] For more on the integration of holograms with technologies, see:  Huang, Peng, Rui Liu, Juan Mo, and ZhengGang Fang. 2016. “Design of Digital Information Share System in Power Distribution Network.” In , 938–42. IEEE. https://doi.org/10.1109/ICISCE.2016.204.

[2] For more on the direction of VRGIS and ARGIS, see:  Kamel Boulos, Maged N., Zhihan Lu, Paul Guerrero, Charlene Jennett, and Anthony Steed. 2017. “From Urban Planning and Emergency Training to Pokémon Go: Applications of Virtual Reality GIS (VRGIS) and Augmented Reality GIS (ARGIS) in Personal, Public and Environmental Health.” International Journal of Health Geographics 16 (1).

[3] For more on vGIS, see:  http://www.vgis.io/.

[4] For more on how urban planners and architects using holographic technologies, see:  Groenendyk, Michael. 2013. “Emerging Data Visualization Technologies for Map and Geography Libraries: 3-D Printing, Holographic Imaging, 3-D City Models, and 3-D Model-Based Animations.” Journal of Map & Geography Libraries 9 (3):220–38. https://doi.org/10.1080/15420353.2013.821436.

[5] For more on this story, see:  https://www.meemim.com/2017/04/12/holographic-gis-toms-river-deploys-worlds-first-holographic-field-services-application-utilities/

[6] An example company can be found here:  https://unity3d.com/

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