FF adds online dimension [UPDATED]Published 6:29am Thursday, October 18, 2012 Updated 8:31am Thursday, October 18, 2012
For a group of Fergus Falls residents, the future of 3-D technology isn’t at the movies.
It’s on the Internet – Google Earth, to be precise.
Steve Roos, a senior research fellow with the University of Minnesota’s Center for Rural Design, met with local participants in the Fergus Falls Library Thursday to wrap up the town’s involvement in the Digital Towns Program, a U of M Extension project that helped residents in Little Falls, Faribault and Fergus Falls create three dimensional models of their towns on Google Earth, a free program that allows people to find and observe locations all over the world.
Fergus Falls, said Roos, was the most productive of the three cities.
“You actually got more than 22 buildings produced,” said Roos.
Fergus Falls was chosen as one of the pilot towns for the project after resident Laurie Mullen applied to the U of M. Using digital photography and a 3-D modeling software called Sketchup, nine key participants and other supporters created digital models (starting in May) of much of Fergus Falls’ historic downtown and uploaded the models to Google Earth. Though not all of the buildings have been approved, several of them have already popped up on the popular free program, including a block of businesses from Otter Tail Telcom to Crates of Yarn.
The goal of putting digital models on Google Earth is to create a 3-D version of the town on the software instead of a 2-D flat aerial photo. Some towns, like Getaria in Spain, have mapped most of their buildings, creating an impressive topographical display of their city’s unique geographical features.
“We’re taking your community and putting it in a place where the rest of the world can be exposed to it,” said Roos.
The U of M has come up with a number of applications for the technology, including city planning for local governments, learning about the important or unique features of a city, assisting in historic preservation and attracting visitors who see an interesting array of scenery and buildings. Further use of the application could result in city planners creating mock-ups of proposed buildings or businesses including important information or even menu items with their digital buildings.
“We want people to learn to recognize the physical character of their community,” Roos said.
Though the U of M’s direct involvement with the program in Fergus Falls is essentially complete, Roos encouraged people to continue to model parts of the town and to get others to model the town as well.
“You let people know that you exist, and not only that you exist, but you’ve got cool stuff,” he said.