Towards the Visual Earth


A major trend of the past several years is the digitization of all forms of geospatial data. An aspect of this trend is the accelerating pace of data acquisition from existing and new types of sensors; most if not all of these data are digital. Many of these sensors have provided forms of data not readily available before, such as high-resolution, dynamic 3D data from the atmosphere or the oceans. Accompanying this trend has been the growing realization that digital geospatial data in all its forms can be organized and made widely accessible and that the means of delivery is available and ubiquitous. This paper discusses the need to go beyond these laudable first steps and provide for the comprehensive visual query and exploration of these massive data stores. Further it will be of great benefit to consider these different types of geospatial data not as separate data organizations but as one, integrated queryable data store. This requires considering the database organization itself, since, to be fully successful for this task, databases must be specially organized to provide for efficient interactive visualization and for efficient data flow for navigation and exploration. One advantage of this approach is that visual query offers a set of guiding principles for the integrated organization, retrieval, and presentation of all types of geospatial data. These include terrain elevation and imagery data, buildings and urban models, maps and geographic information, geologic features, land cover and vegetation, dynamic atmospheric phenomena, and other types of data. Indeed there is reason to believe that all forms of geospatial data could be brought under this organizing umbrella. The result will not just be integrated visual exploration, though seeing different types of geospatial information together and being able to correlate them visually and in detail will be of fundamental importance. The result will also be the ability to efficiently perform new and perhaps unforeseen types of investigations and analyses. These include, for example, integrated simulations (including those with real-time data) which have been difficult or impossible to carry out because the data have not been together before in a common format. Also included is comprehensive knowledge gathering made possible by the ability to gather all information for a particular time and location (or for a range of times or locations) in a form that lends itself to creating new knowledge and to developing understanding. This paper describes what has been done and what remains to be done to meet these goals.

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@inproceedings{Ribarsky2001TowardsTV, title={Towards the Visual Earth}, author={William Ribarsky}, year={2001} }