Abstract: The 4D Mirror World is considered to be the next planetary-scale information platform. This commentary gives an overview of the history of the converging trends that have progressively shaped this concept. It retraces how large-scale photographic surveys served to build the first 3D models of buildings, cities, and territories, how these models got shaped into physical and virtual globes, and how eventually the temporal dimension was introduced as an additional way for navigating not only through space but also through time. The underlying assumption of the early large-scale photographic campaign was that image archives had deeper depths of latent knowledge still to be mined. The technology that currently permits the advent of the 4D World through new articulations of dense photographic material combining aerial imagery, historic photo archives, huge video libraries, and crowd-sourced photo documentation precisely exploits this latent potential. Through the automatic recognition of “homologous points,” the photographic material gets connected in time and space, enabling the geometrical computation of hypothetical reconstructions accounting for a perpetually evolving reality. The 4D world emerges as a series of sparse spatiotemporal zones that are progressively connected, forming a denser fabric of representations. On this 4D skeleton, information of cadastral maps, BIM data, or any other specific layers of a geographical information system can be easily articulated. Most of our future planning activities will use it as a way not only to have smooth access to the past but also to plan collectively shared scenarios for the future.
Keywords: 3D models; Mirror World; photo archives; photogrammetry; virtual globes