3D real-time map brings the London Underground to life

The designers drew inspiration from the latest SimCity game. Credit: Peter Smart

It's a new and exciting way of looking at the London Underground. For the past year Peter Smart and Robin Hawkes have been working on a 3D map that brings cities to life using the power of open data and the Web.

The designers of the ViziCities, started the project because they wanted to see what public transport looked like in real-time and 3D. Partly because they expected it to look amazing, but mostly because they believed it was exactly the kind of thing that will help bring cities to life.

The pair decided on 3D because they felt it was a visually interesting way of looking at a city.

3D allows us to do things and analyse data in ways that you can’t do in a 2D map. For example by using 3D we can take height and depth into consideration, so we can better visualise the sheer volume of stuff that lies above and below us in a city.

An overview of the London Underground network Credit: Peter Smart

Another reason why Smart and Hawkes chose 3D is that it allows the viewer to see cities in a way that they're used to.

Unlike 2D maps, this allows you to feel more at home with your surroundings and fully understand the context of where you are and how the data we visualise relates to that area.

We still have a way to go but we certainly have the beginnings of a live public transport 3D visualisation platform, at least for London. From here we hope to move onto buses and other aspects of the network in London.

Adding UI interactions for live trains Credit: Peter Smart