Mirror Worlds

Mirror Worlds

by Youxiang Wang, Jeff C. , Daren P.


Mirror worlds are informationally-enhanced virtual models or “reflections” of the physical world. Their construction involves sophisticated virtual mapping, modeling, and annotation tools, geospatial and other sensors, and location-aware and other lifelogging (history recording) technologies.

A Mirror world is a digital form representation of the real world. Its intention is to map the real world’s structure, well, in a geographically accurate way. Mirror worlds usually offer a utilitarian software model of real human environments, example Google Earth. Virtual world have no direct connections to real models, while mirror worlds are connected to real models.

The concept of mirror world was first used in GIS, which is Geographic Information System. The function of GIS is to store, retrieve, display, manage and analyze all types of geographic data of a specific region. Canada was the first entity to use this mirror world GIS and its system was created by Roger Tomlinson in 1960. The goal was to develop land management plans for large areas of rural Canada. At that time, Canada was beginning to realize problems associated with its large land mass and attempting to discern the availability of natural resources. The federal government decided to launch a national program to assist in management and inventory of its resources. The simple automated computer processes designed to store and process large amounts of data enabled Canada to begin a national land-use management program and become a foremost promoter of geographic information systems

The system contains all the natural factors including mineral & water resources, forest and wildlife habitats. The system was used since the time it was created untill now, but during 1980s a lot of commercial GIS softwares came out, which gradually replace the role of the first GIS system.
As nowadays the modern version of GIS is mainly the commercial GIS, navigation apps, games and some virtual tours. For example Waze, which is community-like navigation app that allows people to report real time traffic and road information and as a result information in the app reflects the real-time world.

Case 1: Google GIS(Google Map and Google Earth).

Google map as we know is an online navigation and direction system which shows real-time traffic, routes and travel time from locations to locations. It also tells users the floor layout for example the Tysons Corner Center, shopping mall and also the store phone number.
nycnewGE.jpg Google Earth: It’s a 3D Geographic system. It shows a more realistic images of locations than Google Map. All the images are taken by a space satellite thus it reflects what our earth looks like.

Case 2: RealPage: 3D Apartment Floor Plan & Virtual Tour

RealPage is a software company that provides three-dimensional presentation of real-world environment and structure. The mirrored model is usually constructed with real photo of the apartment or similar animation. Such models offer a better 3-d presentation of the apartment to the customer who tries to see those apartments better.
Virtual Tour of Real Apartments and House: Examples in Realpage website

Case 3: Anteworld of the Outerra

Link to Outerra Website

Video game engine Anteworld of the Outerra engine is a MW that mirrors the entire planet Earth at a 1:1 scale. Players can explore it in a free-camera mode by feet as well as in vehicles such as planes, boats, and cars and spawn user-made objects such as houses and (usable) vehicles. In the game, the user can blend in an embedded Google map of real Earth that is synchronized with the current camera position.

Different from the previous cases such as the maps that were all designed for utility, subjects to the enhancement of personal life, you use them to get to somewhere or find some places, this software is created solely for entertainment. Users are able to discover different parts of the Earth that they may never set foot on. Being able to do whatever you want in a Mirror World, that is exactly the same as the real one, may satisfy some peoples desires. The Alpha version of this game was released quite some time ago, from their website you may tell people are showing positive feedback. So I guess the product is fulfilling its designated use. Well, since the game is still under development the full version will not come out anytime soon as it seems like they are short on developers even recruiting on their own website.

Game play Video of Outerra Anteworld




  • MW is compelling educational, organizational, and commercial tool
  • A precise spatial context to physical world information

Challenges & Issues:

  • The power balance between individual users or small groups and large corporate or state
  • The standard for open source MW

Potential use:

  • Socializing, entertainment, traffic
  • environment concern monitor(pollution/pollen),
  • commercial display/ presentation (“make the invisible visible”),
  • method of testing plans, prediction

In the near future:
Open-standards and public platforms (Google) will dominant mirror worlds in the short run, but proprietary and private versions are also likely to see continued growth in the corporate and institutional sectors, to protect strategies and to seek competitive advantages.









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