Surveying Midsummer Boulevard

One of the highlights of the Visualisation Lab is the detailed 3D recreation of Midsummer Boulevard down to Milton Keynes Train Station in virtual reality (VR). While it may seem bizarre to spend months modelling the environment and street right outside our offices, the experimental value is enormous. Infinite VR scenarios can be played out on what looks like the same path many of the users may have walked along just moments before.

Environmental realism is crucial to suspending disbelief and evoking genuine responses from our users. So far, the pathway, street furniture and surrounding buildings have been modelled and positioned according to a heap of photography, Ordnance Survey and laser measurement data. But this isn’t accurate enough, especially if we choose to share the data with our colleagues working on the autonomous pods.

Screenshot of the Virtual Reality 3D model of Midsummer Boulevard, depicting autonomous pods driving around Milton Keynes train station plaza

On a sunny March day, MK Surveys and Leica Geosystems kindly agreed to join us in revolutionising our model. What could we all learn and achieve by combining various state-of-the-art survey systems?

Leica graciously loaned MK Surveys two mobile sensor platforms for the trial: the car-mounted Pegasus:Two and the Pegasus Backpack. Both systems capture LIDAR with full 360° spherical view imaging together, recording incredible detail down to 3cm. By driving and walking along the lengths of Midsummer Boulevard’s roads and pavements, the entire 1.25km route between Milton Keynes Railway Station and Centre:MK was captured in breathtaking detail.

After a few days of processing, MK Surveys dropped by with 500GB of beautiful point-cloud data and 360 imagery. When viewed through Autodesk 3DS Max, we can fly through the colourised point-cloud and inspect every detail of the environment we miss on a daily basis. This immense accuracy will be an invaluable reference to the true scale, shape, colour and position of everything in our updated VR environment.

Screenshot of the LIDAR point-cloud data, depicting The Pinnacle where we are based.

The last piece of the survey puzzle is the places that can’t be seen from the ground. We will soon be collaborating with a UAV specialist to capture the same environment from the air. Keep watch for an update about this soon.

More images from this project

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