Potree is a tool that allows you to display large point clouds in a browser. Point clouds are a type of data that consists of individually spatially located points. This could be geospatial data or other directly scanned data, making the point cloud a 3D virtual representation of reality, but it could also be used for points that are spatially located based on other criteria. A scatterplot is, in essence, a pointcloud (but often in 2D, while a point cloud in Potree is always in 3D).

To handle the large amounts of data, Potree uses algorithms similar to those employed by map software like Google Maps, OpenLayers or OpenStreetMap. This ensures that only data inside the visible area and up to a certain level of detail is loaded. This reduces the amount of points on the screen at one time, making the software able to handle point clouds consisting of billions of points.

We have used Potree in the Mapping the Via Appia project, successfully displaying the scanned archeological data from the famous road in Italy in a browser. This allows the archeologists to map the site and archive their findings in 3D, where previously they could only map and view the site in 2D. This allows for new research in the sense that virtual reconstructions of the scanned objects can now be placed in their 3D virtual context, making it possible to reproduce ancient views on the landscape.

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