What is a Skybox? Imagine projecting an artificial environment all around you, so you can look in any direction and see a seamless image – similar to the actual world around you, but maybe a more exciting vision than your office. You could be suspended in space, or in a lush forest, or on the top floor of a Tokyo city skyscraper. This is essentially what a SkyBox is; a 360° x 180° spherical projection of an image, with the subject in the center.
Chances are if you're ever stayed up (maybe later than you should) on your Playstation or Xbox, you've spent a lot of quality time hanging out in a SkyBox. Game design - and increasingly, virtual reality design - hinges on creating an immersive experience that transports the player into the game world, without edges and stitching effects that would detract from the suspension of reality.
In the fields of GIS and geological science, our visualization needs are somewhat less demanding than in VR game development, but we can still benefit from having a dramatic and interesting way to present our finished models. In Surfer 15, our new 3D View feature allows us to display 3D data such as contours, surface maps or wireframes within a SkyBox. Although Surfer has supported 3D surface maps for a few versions now, our new 3D View feature allows us to completely revolve around a model in all directions (including from underneath and above) in a true 3D environment. And now, we can also decorate this 3D environment with a 360° SkyBox panorama. By default, Surfer 15 comes with sixteen SkyBoxes for you to choose from, but if you are interested in creating your own, there are instructions on how to do so in this Knowledge Base article: Can I Create My Own SkyBox For The 3D View?
So why might you like to do this? Essentially for the same reasons as other industries – to make an eye-catching display of your work. Images from the SkyBox would look arresting when enlarged for conference presentations, you could view models in a more natural setting, reproduce the actual physical environment of your data location, or create dramatic presentations for board meetings or business clients.
For some inspiration, think of some other places you may have experienced a SkyBox:
- In Google Street View
- Virtual tours of real estate
- Tourism websites
- Architectural presentations
- Displays of engineering CAD models
If you currently have active maintenance on your Surfer subscription, you will receive all these new features for free - try out the SkyBoxes for yourself! Users with active maintenance download and install the latest version here. Anyone else wishing to create your own Skybox can download install the trial version.