3-D simulation gives bird's-eye view of Baghdad

When U.S. soldiers swarm the streets of Baghdad, they are hoping to find themselves in familiar neighborhoods.

Thanks to a 3-D simulation of a large swath of the city, the soldiers have had a chance to study and memorize streets, landmarks and lines of sight, all of which should help them keep their bearings as the fight rages.

Harris Corp. prepared the simulation of 400 square kilometers of the city at the Pentagon's request. Joe Nemethy, Harris' product manager for RealSight, declined to say who requested the Baghdad simulation or precisely where it was shipped, but he acknowledged sending completed elements of the software in the "direction" of the Middle East since January.

"For this particular customer, we had to model all the structures in that 400 square kilometers," Nemethy said. "The biggest [simulation] before this was 40 square kilometers."

The simulation is generated using two-dimensional photographs drawn from satellite pictures, then fleshing out the third dimension.

"The technology has been developed over the past six years. It came out of the classified area from a study program," Nemethy said. "One of our Ph.D.s was at a conference, and some people were talking about doing 3-D models from photogrammetry. ... He came back and wrote a white paper requesting funding."

According to the company's Web site for the product, Harris has already done 3-D simulations of six cities. This includes Salt Lake City, where it was used to support the Winter Olympics; lower Manhattan, used by NBC to show the after effects of the Sept. 11 attack on the World Trade Center; and Quebec, for planning security measures in advance of the Americas summit.

The simulation allows a user to do a screen capture of a location, measure the distance between buildings, organize flight plans or look for dangerous spots where ambushes might be placed, Nemethy said. The images can be overlaid on a map, showing street names, identifying natural features such as lakes and providing compass orientation.

One soldier who has seen and used the new Baghdad simulation was stationed in Mogadishu, Somalia, and took part in the street battle retold in the book and movie "Black Hawk Down." According to Nemethy, the soldier said: "If I'd had this in Somalia, we never would have gone in."

The actual visualization software sells for about $500 per seat, Nemethy said. Harris gave the Baghdad model to the military.

Harris Corp. of Melbourne, Fla., reported revenue in fiscal 2002 of almost $1.9 billion. The company employs 9,700 people worldwide.

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