Oregon firm negotiates for visualization deals

State and city government agencies could soon be using a state-of-the-art visualization center for urban planning and emergency response command-and-control.

State and city government agencies in Oregon could soon be using a state-of-the-art visualization center for urban planning and emergency response command-and-control.

Oregon3D Inc., headquartered in Portland, is in active discussions with several agencies, according to its president, Bob Rosenthal, and could have deals in place later this year.

"We've talked to a number of emergency services organizations about various disaster scenarios, to get a good sense of the kinds of situations they are likely to be faced with," said Rick Verbeck, Oregon3D's chief technologist. "We've also been talking to them about using the center as a virtual command and control facility."

The kind of detail that the company's Center for Visualization Technologies can provide is also ideal for things such as urban simulation, he said, since it's a step beyond what can be provided with current geographic information system (GIS) technologies.

"GIS tools are generally aimed at engineers and are not intended to be interactive so such things as buildings and trees are generally not included in GIS systems," Verbeck said. "The kind of realism you get with visualization allows people to see things they might otherwise miss with 'normal' computer simulations."

Various colleges and government laboratories nationwide have visualization centers, but the commercial side is currently shrinking, he said, because local markets tend not to have enough business to support such activities other than places such as Detroit, with the automotive industry, and Texas, where the oil industry is a major user of visualization.

Portland and its surrounding areas are also supportive of the technology because of the work the city and agencies such as Metro and TriMet have done in planning for urban growth and transport services, Verbeck said Oregon3D took a major step forward in its plans by concluding a deal with Newlands and Co. Inc. to license that company's data of a 3-D prototype of Portland. That will help Oregon3D officials develop simulations that allow users to fly through the city in real-time, Verbeck said.

In addition to emergency response applications, other uses of this Portland city model will be urban development, review and planning for projected city growth and traffic visualization.

Robinson is a freelance journalist based in Portland, Ore. He can be reached at hullite@mindspring.com.

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