ArcGIS 10 is close to being released and along with ArcGIS 10 will be a new release of ArcGIS Explorer (build 1500). We're not going to list the new features in the 1500 release yet (and there are some surprises) but we thought it would be interesting to visit one of them - the enhanced capability to visualize virtual cities. Here's an example that team member Mark Bockenhauer shared.
Shown below is what may have been considered state of the art a while ago - extruded building polygons based on height attributes with a little creative color shading thrown in. While not the ideal, this method was low-overhead and complete cities could be authored and served quickly, and viewed efficiently using ArcGIS Explorer.
Using automated capture of building facades and heights and draping them onto buildings is a much more realistic approach that's been possible to do in ArcGIS for while, but has also been somewhat constrained by the overhead of displaying all that data and service throughput.
Shown below is the result of some work that's gone into the ArcGIS 10 3D Analyst (ArcGlobe) and ArcGIS Server globe services. These improvements, coupled with enhancements to ArcGIS Explorer 1500, make it easier, faster, and more efficient to create and view entire virtual cities from 3D ArcGIS services using Explorer.
In the example below facades were captured using oblique aerial imagery (through Pictometry) and then draped onto 3D shapes. The geometry and textures were automatically generated from the imagery, building footprints, and LIDAR (via Pictometry's partner, Precision Lightworks).
Read more: http://blogs.esri.com/Info/blogs/arcgisexplorerblog/archive/2010/05/19/a-virtual-city-look-ahead-arcgis-10-and-arcgis-explorer-1500.aspx