Creating a "Digital Twin"

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Over the past few months, we've been test-driving Bruce, a new 3d visualization tool from New Zealand-based Nextspace. According to Nextspace, "Bruce is a complete digital ontology management system." Instead of creating 3d models, Bruce is focused on organizing information visually– It's designed to accept nearly any type of data: 3D models, photos, point clouds, data streams from remote sensors and monitoring systems, GIS map data, spreadsheets, etc. The idea is to gather all of the relevant information, organize it visually, and update it in real time to create a "digital twin".

In our test drive we would barely scratch the surface of what Bruce can do. Here's just a few example data sources Bruce can work with:

As a demo project, we chose a case involving a SWAT team raid gone wrong that we worked on a couple years ago: A man, hearing strangers prowling in his yard, steps onto his front porch to confront them. The strangers are a SWAT team, conducting a secret raid to serve a warrant on a neighbor. Instead of announcing themselves, three police officers fire their weapons, totaling over a dozen shots.

After loading the base model into Bruce, we added members of the SWAT team. Bruce has endless customization options both for the type of data attached to each entity in the model, and how it is displayed. In a larger-scale project, it would be possible to spawn an entire SWAT team by uploading a spreadsheet containing names and relevant info for each member. Here, a simple popup displays a description of this officer and his role in the raid.

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We can also add markers to represent the bullet strikes. Here, a photo taken at the crime scene can be attached to the marker and viewed with a click.

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We can then map the relationship between the officer and the bullet strike. In this case, the relationship is a bullet trajectory.

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Having defined the start and end point of the bullet's path, we can now adjust the Officer's position in 3D space, and the trajectories automatically update to match.

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All of this is viewable in a web browser window, via a 3D interface similar to Google Maps. Bruce projects can be password protected, shared via a link, and edited by multiple users.

Overall, I found Bruce to be an extremely powerful and versatile 3D viewer, and the web browser interface solves a problem we've had sharing our SketchUp models with clients and collaborators. However, Bruce really shines when used to organize and visualize a very large amount of geospatial data– It's not a level of sophistication we need with every project we work on, but next time we take on a sprawling project with lots of different kinds of data scattered over a large area, it's great to know Bruce can handle it.


Joel Newman is a Senior Designer at Fat Pencil Studio