The timing worked superbly, like the best Swiss clockwork: A few days before winter made a comeback in Switzerland, I sat in a plane to Los Angeles. Nevermind that California also had slightly cooler temperatures than usual – it was definitely preferable over the polar cold air masses that firmly occupied Switzerland. Even the place names felt evocative: Santa Cruz, Big Sur, and San Francisco. For two weeks I would cruise California, before making my way back to L.A. and then Palm Springs in order to attend the 2018 Esri Partner Conference and Developer Summit together with my colleague, Nicole Sulzberger, in order to gather the most recent news for our clients and to network with Esri employees and partners from around the world. In what follows, we describe what we learned during the two Esri events: the latest news about developments at Esri.
The Science of Where
The Science of Where is Esri’s tagline since 2017. In the plenary session, Jack Dangermond, the president of Esri, made clear what it summarizes: The world is seeing many big challenges. Loss in biodiversity, competition for resources, increased mobility demands, demographic shifts, and climate change, to name a few. The science of where helps to address all of these and more. It is, in Esri’s understanding, the combination of the competence of geography (process knowledge, spatial thinking and reasoning) and the technology around GIS. Applying the science of where helps answering spatial questions with:
- increased efficiency to save resources
- better analysis to actually understand what is going on, and
- better communication to foster good decisions
All this rings true for me as a geographer and in our team we agreed that this vision matches well with our own.
What Esri showed during the Partner Conference and Developer Summit can be linked very well to at least one, often several, of these three promises, for example:
- increased efficiency around working with big data, on desktop or mobile, or administrating one’s geodata infrastructure,
- better analysis capabilities within (e.g., ArcGIS Insights, GeoAnalytics Server) and around Esri’s core products (e.g., GeoAI DSVM, R-ArcGIS-Bridge, Jupyter Notebooks), and
Augmented and Virtual Reality
Augmented (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) functionality has been built into the ArcGIS Runtime SDK. The AR mode gives a transparent background to a scene so that it can be shown on top of a device’s camera feed. The VR mode allows displaying a scene in stereo and an appropriate VR user interface. There is an Esri Labs ArcGIS 360 VR app for the Samsung Gear VR headset on Oculus that highlights the new VR capabilites of Esri software. Further, Esri showed their tabletop UX for planning: there, a 3D scene (from e.g. City Engine) is displayed on a virtual tabletop. Viewers can virtually gather around the table and interact with the model, e.g. selecting different planning scenarios for visualization. The viewers themselves can be in remote locations. Upon viewing the scene they can also see other viewers and what they are looking at. Finally, any viewer can teleport into the scene itself and look at the model from different in-scene vantage points.
The following video from the plenary sessions highlights some AR/VR capabilities of ArcGIS Runtime (jump to 4:00 for seeing first a VR, then an AR demo):
3D and Indoors GIS
Esri 3D Web Scenes will be consumable on mobile devices, using a responsive interface. Features from 3D scene layers are quickly streamed to the device. Users can use advanced measurement tools to, for example, measure plan surface areas in a 3D scene:
Some powerful 3D features in native apps such as interactive line-of-sight analysis have been shown in another plenary session, the video of which is available from Esri.
Further, 3D scenes support a new rendering mode that gives building edges a „sketch“ look. This is interesting, for example, for visualization of planned projects where you do not yet want to convey a very crisp and precise impression of a provisionally planned scenario.
Since the previous Partner Conference and Developer Summit, ArcGIS Indoors has matured further. This new suite of tools comprises ArcGIS Indoors Desktop (built on top of ArcGIS Pro if I’m not mistaken), the ArcGIS Indoors Web Viewer, and the ArcGIS Indoors Mobile App. They in turn support data preparation and map design, simple editing and dashboard functionality, and indoor-navigation using device sensors through the indoors positioning feed.
When you zoom out from your building(s) view, the transition into geographic space and navigation by GPS only should be seamless. The navigation functionality relies on an appropriate 3D network dataset (somewhat in contrast to our own pedestrian modeling tool Walkalytics).