Amongst my trawling of the various GIS mailinglists, i stumbled upon an interesting post in Mapserver-Users from a guy showcasing his method of creating a X3d view generated from an area of interest inside Mapserver.
Open3dgis.org is an opensource project that utilises PostGIS, Python, Mapserver and a variety of 3d packages to generate a 3d view from an otherwise â€œflatâ€ 2d contour view. With a few small pre-requisites, if you have access to contour linestring data with an obvious height attribute, you can also create your own 3d views in about 5 seconds. The X3d format (while obviously reliant on a plugin and 3d hardware) is a good way to visualise in three dimensions.
The O3dGIS guys have a public demonstration up at http://www.opengeo.com.br/ms/o3dg/ if anyone is interested. You will need to install a X3d viewer in order to view the output.
The install instructions on their site detail a Fedora linux install, but given that the guts of the program is python iâ€™d be interested to hear if anyone has had success on windows.
Iâ€™m impressed, simply because i never knew a Delauney algorithm existed, nor that you could generate a 3d view so easily from something as common as countour linestrings. There is obvious applications in the emergency management space as this method allows near-real time 3d views without the need for large, time consuming DEM models to be created.