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Indiana School for the Blind 3D Prints Huge Map Based on OpenTopography Lidar Data

Jacob Ayers is the Digital Fabrication & Design Specialist at Indiana School for the Blind & Visually Impaired. As such he has built a 3D printing lab (we have followed the lab coming together through Facebook over these past two years) where he and the students 3D print a variety of objects for education and accessibility. The latest are highly accurate maps based on OpenTopography data.
This latest project caught our attention. It is a precise topographic map of the school premises based on the Lidar data of the school for the blind taken from the NSF OpenTopography project data set of Indiana. The OpenTopography project was actually created to facilitate community access to high-resolution, Earth science-oriented, topography data, and related tools and resources.

“Teachers give me a basic concept of what they need and from there it’s up to me to determine what’s the best solution to their problem.” Jacob explains. “With this map thing they asked for it about a year and a half ago. I’ve been doing small scale prototypes along the way trying figure out the best form factor and route to produce everything they wanted.”

The OpenTopography Facility is based at the San Diego Supercomputer Center at the University of California, San Diego and is operated in collaboration with colleagues in the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University and at UNAVCO. The mission of the OpenTopography Facility is to Democratize online access to high-resolution (meter to sub-meter scale), Earth science-oriented, topography data acquired with lidar and other technologies.

The project aims to harness cutting edge cyberinfrastructure to provide Web service-based data access, processing, and analysis capabilities that are scalable, extensible, and innovative. The system is also open to partnerships with public domain data holders to leverage OpenTopography infrastructure for data discovery, hosting and processing. It can provide professional training and expert guidance in data management, processing, and analysis, as well as foster interaction and knowledge exchange in the Earth science lidar user community.

Core operational support for OpenTopography comes from the National Science Foundation Earth Sciences: Instrumentation and Facilities Program (EAR/IF), Geoinformatics and EarthCube. OpenTopography was initially developed as a proof of concept cyberinfrastructure in the Earth sciences project as part of the NSF Information and Technology Research (ITR) program-funded Geoscience Network (GEON) project.

Over the past decade, there has been dramatic growth in the acquisition of publicly funded high-resolution topographic and bathymetric data for scientific, environmental, engineering and planning purposes. Because of the richness of these data sets, they are often extremely valuable beyond the application that drove their acquisition and thus are of interest to a large and varied user community. However, because of the large volumes of data produced by high-resolution mapping technologies such as lidar, it is often difficult to distribute these datasets. Furthermore, the data can be technically challenging to work with, requiring software and computing resources not readily available to many users. OpenTopography aims to democratize access to high-resolution topographic data in a manner that serves users with varied expertise, application domains, and computing resources.

The physical map is mounted on a huge foam $2000 check

OpenTopography data access levels:

Google Earth:
Google Earth provides an excellent platform to deliver lidar-derived visualizations for research, education, and outreach purposes. These files display full-resolution images derived from lidar in the Google Earth virtual globe. The virtual globe environment provides a freely available and easily navigated viewer and enables quick integration of the lidar visualizations with imagery, geographic layers, and other relevant data available in KML format.

Pre-computed raster data include digital elevation model (DEM) layers computed from aerial lidar surveys and raster data from the Satellite Radar Topography Mission (SRTM) global dataset. DEMs from aerial lidar surveys are available as bare earth (ground), highest hit (first or all return), or intensity (strength of laser pulse) tiles. Some datasets also have orthophtotographs available. The DEMs are in common GIS formats (e.g. ESRI Arc Binary) and are compressed (zipped) to reduce their size.

Lidar point cloud data and on-demand processing:
This aspect of OpenTopography allows users to define an area of interest, as well as subset of the data (e.g. “ground returns only”), and then to download the results of this query in ASCII or LAS binary point cloud formats. Also available is the option to generate custom derivative products such as digital elevation models (DEMs) produced with user-defined resolution and algorithm parameters, and downloaded in a number of different file formats. The system will also generate geomorphic metrics such as hillshade and slope maps, and will dynamically generate visualizations of the data products for display in the web browser or Google Earth.

Data: As an NSF-EAR-funded data facility, OpenTopography’s primary emphasis is on Earth science-related, research-grade, topography and bathymetry data. The scope of data that falls within this domain is not specifically defined, and data priorities are dictated by feedback from the OpenTopography user community, as well as our Advisory Committee. For those data that OpenTopography does not have the resources to host, we encourage registration of these in our data catalog so that they are discoverable by the community.

Jacob’s Lab consists in a farm of Robo3D systems


About Davide Sher

Over the last decade Davide has built up extensive experience as both a technology journalist and communications consultant. Born in Milan, Italy, he spent 12 years in the United States, where he received his undergraduate degree from SUNY Stony Brook. He is a senior analyst for US-based firm SmarTech Publishing focusing on the additive manufacturing industry. He founded London-based 3D Printing Business Media Ltd. which specialises in media and communications services for the 3DP and AM industry, through which he runs 3D Printing Business Directory, the largest global directory of companies related to 3DP, as well as two editorial websites, 3D Printing Media Network and Il Replicatore.

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