March 13, 2006
What the World Needs Now
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Susan Smith - Managing Editor

by Susan Smith - Managing Editor
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1) Direct data access - One of the new features in the new release is direct data access for all these datastores. There is no more translation, import and export, or conversion to AutoCAD entities. This information is accessed directly and rendered offscreen, creating huge performance enhancements.

Using this data connect UI you can connect to the new Autodesk SDF - in this case Christian connects a 140 Mb U.S. Census track file. The file is converted to SDF that he adds to his map. The result is the information is rendered onscreen very quickly.

2) Default stylization - In this file there are over 200,000 polygon boundaries, brought in very quickly with a default style associated with them. There are numerous new user interfaces for styling this information. You can stream polygons based on an area value using some of the distributions available and some new style capabilities where you can style polygons, and line specific colors. This renders quickly onscreen. The UI is shared with Autodesk MapGuide Studio authoring environment. A preview version has been released for MapGuide Open Source.

New Functions

New in Map 3D 2007 is the ability to import raster based surfaces unless without having to use Raster Design, plus 3D visualization tools, draping and transparency:

1) Transparency - for underlying information

2) New dynamic labeling replaces the need for AutoCAD text. You have a variety of choices of what you are rendering, what attribute information is associated with the underlying vector objects as well the use of fonts, text colors, ghosting, etc.

Christian explained that Map 3D has the ability to work with drawing objects, using the Display Manager released two years ago in Map, but with the slightly different UI. “We have very much the same capabilities - create themes and add styles that are not layer controlled-- that you would use through the standard layer manager in AutoCAD. You can combine drawing objects as well as information brought in through our FDO technology.”

Autodesk Revit, a vertical design product that is not AutoCAD-based, requires that you work with it in Map 3D through an Object Enabler. However, you can't style that information if using an Object Enabler to render it.

3) Raster capabilities - New in Map 3D 2007 is the ability to connect to and render raster based surfaces so raster information that has elevation data such as a GEOtiff, and ESRI ArcGrid, USGS digital elevation models, can use the same UI to theme this information. Users can theme with height, slogan, assets, etc. and then use some predefined palettes to style this information.

4) New 3D capabilities. In the example given, a raster surface that has elevation data now is rendered as a 3D image. Users can use some of the AutoCAD tools such as orbiting commands and visual information tools on those raster based surfaces.

Other raster imagery such as ortho photos or satellite imagery can be combined into one layer or feature class, and this information can be added to the map which will be quickly rendered as one image. In the case shown, there are four images that are actually treated as one.

5) Drape vector images on top of surfaces and combine raster and surface models as well as vector information. You can create contours based on the underlying surface and you can write these contours out as an SDF file, and they will be automatically draped on top of the surface.

AutoCAD 2007 has new 3D capabilities that enhance the use of Map 3D. For example,
the AutoCAD 2007 materials library allows you to apply a material to the raster surfaces. You can also create a 3D plane, apply a material such as a watercolor and use it as a flood zone plane that you can move up and down on this 3D surface model so you can actually see water filling a canyon, etc. When you go into that 3D environment, you can work with AutoCAD 3D objects as well as 3D surfaces that are rendered for Map. “Not all the tools work on the Map generated surfaces but you do see some integration of those tools,” Christian explained.

Editing information

In another video clip Christian explained how Map 3D is used mostly as a create and edit tool, which allows you to use all the CAD based editing tools. “To edit information I check it out. It looks to the user like any other AutoCAD entity; they can use the AutoCAD tools on this to stretch, do key line edits, etc. The big difference is that we're directly writing these edits back to the underlying datastore. So as I'm editing, this information is being directly written back to the datastore. I can also create new information and use familiar tools such as drawing arcs and snaps on data rendered in Map.

There is a process change in checking in and checking out, but the tools are very similar to the AutoCAD tools people are familiar with.”

There is an attribute table to fill in attribute information. You check information back in after editing, completing the process of direct editing of spatial data using AutoCAD or CAD tools.

Obviously this is a tool designed largely for the CAD workforce to be able to access GIS data. GIS professionals are generally more expensive to maintain than drafters, noted Christian. “Map gives the CAD-trained workforce to use an environment and tools they are already familiar with to perform work order management type tasks, and create, edit and maintain GIS data. This then frees up the GIS department to perform operations they are trained in such as more complex GIS analysis, etc.”

Bulk Copy

In another video, Christian highlights a tool called Bulk Copy, which enables users to connect any of these datastores and swap information between the datastores. “So I can push information from SDF to Oracle, or I can move data from shape to Oracle, MySQL, etc. Map thus becomes a data management tool with its ability to write information from one datastore to another.

“We can take the model that's designed in Civil 3D and publish it out to SDF, along with all attributes associated with that model. We can take the SDF file and move that design into a relational database.

“We can also take a map we've created and publish it to the MapGuide Open Source Server, then we can publish it to the web. We can view it with DWF or another browser using AJAX html technology - so now you can use a browser that doesn't use an ActiveX control.”


Looking at the entire picture of what Autodesk is offering in ISD pretty much spells out the direction the company is headed: being able to use all the CAD-based editing tools to edit spatial data and then write it back to datastores is in itself, a challenge that software companies have struggled with for many years. This is a serious attempt to bridge the gap between GIS and CAD. It would make sense that applications will eventually be developed to markup and write back to the datastore in MapGuide Open Source, just as they were created with the old MapGuide technology, providing data management capabilities within an open source framework as well as in Map 3D.

But perhaps more importantly, Autodesk is indeed putting into place “a set of interoperable solutions that span all aspects of the infrastructure lifecycle,” answering that call for what the world needs now.

Top News of the Week

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (
JAXA) has released the first images from the Panchromatic Remote-sensing Instrument for Stereo Mapping (PRISM) payload on their Advanced Land Observing Satellite (ALOS). The imagery was released less than one month after the ALOS launch, much quicker than is typical for sophisticated imaging systems. The images clearly show objects as small as cars and the stereo imaging, a unique capability for an Earth observation satellite, allows generation of three-dimensional "fly-by" movies.

MapText's interactive cost calculator calculated how much time and money you waste manually placing, moving and editing imperfectly placed labels on your maps, as well as promises to cut those costs drastically with the

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-- Susan Smith, Managing Editor.

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