In this paper we present a new interdisciplinary approach to geographic information systems. The integration of object-oriented data modeling, 3D real-time simulation, virtual reality techniques and remote sensing methods with new semantic world modeling techniques and well known geo information system (GIS) functionalities provides the basis for a new class of “Virtual Testbeds”. These testbeds build on a new approach which combines state-of-the-art GIS functionalities to deal with complex and large geographical data sets with the intuitive operability and the advanced simulation capabilities of latest robotic and automation simulation components. Besides the simulation algorithms, the testbeds take advantage of advanced modeling capabilities to (semi) automatic ally generate models of “natural” environments in e.g. forests or cities. Based on remote sensing data, not only geometric shapes are derived, but also an object’s “function” or “semantics”. The new ideas have already been applied to various applications of which the most successful will also be described in this paper.

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