Carto Project

ACM SIGGRAPH
Carto Project Survey Summary Report March 1997

Prepared by
Theresa-Marie Rhyne
Carto Project Director
Director-at-Large, ACM SIGGRAPH
David A. Taylor
Carto Project Administrator

Executive Summary

This report reviews the results of a survey on cartographic and geographic visualization conducted during January and February of 1997. The survey is part of a three-year special project funded by ACM SIGGRAPH.

In June 1996, a cross-organizational collaboration began between ACM SIGGRAPH and the International Cartographic Association's (ICA) Commission on Visualization. The Carto Project explores how viewpoints and techniques from the computer graphics community can be effectively applied to cartographic and spatial data sets. These efforts will continue into 1999, in parallel with the time frame of the ICA's Commission on Visualization. More information on the ICA Commission on Visualization can be found on the World Wide Web at http://www.gis.psu.edu/ica/ICAvis.html.

The survey discussed in this document provides a snapshot of current computer graphics usage and World Wide Web tools for cartographic and geographic visualization. The profile that emerges from this survey is that of a respondent population engaged in a wide and varied assortment of computer graphics and cartographic endeavors. The tools and data types respondents use are as diverse as the projects in which they are engaged. Use of the Internet and the World Wide Web is widespread, particularly for data distribution and information sharing. Although many respondents are investigating the implications and potential uses of the Virtual Reality Modeling Language (VRML), few have incorporated it into their current active projects in any way.

Little consistency is evident in the data types employed or in the tool sets used by this group of computer graphics and cartographic professionals. Nearly all respondents were aware of efforts in the geographic information industry toward establishing standards. Only a few reported having directly participated in these standards efforts.

Work is underway to prepare for an ACM SIGGRAPH 97 Carto Special Interest Group Meeting session to discuss geographic visualization, desktop virtual reality, and cartography. The intent is to foster the interaction between developers and contributors to VRML and other interactive computer graphics techniques with cartographic and geographic professionals. ACM SIGGRAPH 97 will be held in Los Angeles on August 3-8, 1997. An agenda for the SIGGRAPH 97 Carto SIG will be presented and reviewed at the June 1997 meeting of the ICA's Commission on Visualization.

Background

Complex sets of geographically referenced information and data have become accessible through the World Wide Web (WWW), digital library technologies, software agent mechanisms, and high speed networking. Interested consumers include governments, industry, business organizations, and the general public. Efforts are under way to establish international standards for indexing and managing geospatial data clearinghouses. The International Cartographic Association (ICA) has begun to explore the changing and expanding role of maps with respect to digital technology. The Association has established a four-year (1996-1999) Commission on Visualization, for which these goals have been established:

1. To study and report on the changing and expanding role of maps in science, decision-making, policy formulation, and society in general due to the advent of intelligent dynamic maps that are designed as visual thinking/decision-support tools.

2. To investigate and report on the links between scientific visualization and cartographic visualization, and to identify ways to facilitate exchange of ideas between cartographers and others working on problems in visualization.

3. To organize workshops and/or seminars for exploring the issues cited above, and to facilitate transfer of cartographic visualization principles and technology at the international level.

4. To establish a World Wide Web site to disseminate results of research on cartographic visualization and examples of cartographic visualization products.

5. To produce appropriate publications for dissemination of results of the above efforts.

ACM SIGGRAPH and ICA have begun to explore how visualization can assist with data mining in cartographic and geographic information data repositories. In June 1996 the Carto Project, a cross-organizational collaboration between ACM SIGGRAPH and the ICA Commission on Visualization, began. The Carto Project is studying how viewpoints and techniques from the computer graphics community can be effectively applied to cartographic and spatial data sets. This includes exploring how viewpoints and methods from cartography can enhance developments in computer graphics, especially those associated with the representation of geographic phenomena. Like the ICA Commission on Visualization, the Carto Project will culminate in 1999.

Carto Objectives

The primary objectives of the cross-organizational collaboration between ACM SIGGRAPH and the ICA have been articulated in terms of five ongoing steps:

Step #1: Obtain viewpoints from the cartographic and computer graphics communities on technology (including hardware and software) and techniques that will impact and can be applied to cartographic visualization. This will involve using the SIGGRAPH Web site and the Computer Graphics publication to request input, as well as making direct contact with individuals and companies in the cartographic and computer graphics communities. (Autumn 1996)

Step #2: Prepare a white paper on the Step #1 findings. Make the report available via the WWW to the International Cartographic Association, ACM SIGGRAPH, and the general public. Solicit viewpoints from cartographic professionals on how effectively the computer graphics technology and techniques can be applied to spatial data. (Winter 1997)

Step #3: Begin discussions with the WWW and telecommunications communities about the requirements for collaborative cartographic visualizations, including an examination of the capabilities of the Virtual Reality Modeling Language (VRML). Publicize a Special Interest Group (SIG) gathering on Cartographic Visualization at SIGGRAPH 97. Begin developing the agenda for the Carto SIG. Prepare for the June 1997 meeting of the International Cartographic Association Commission on Visualization. (Spring 1997)

Step #4: Report the SIGGRAPH Cartographic Visualization Survey findings at the June 1997 meeting of the International Cartographic Association Commission on Visualization. Conduct the Cartographic Visualization SIG at SIGGRAPH 97 to support cross-organization collaboration. (Summer 1997)

Step #5 Establish action items for Autumn 1997 and early 1998, based on the outcome of Steps 1-4 (August/September 1997). Report the Carto project findings on the SIGGRAPH WWW site and in the Computer Graphics publication.

Throughout the Carto Project, as findings or developments of significance unfold, they will be published on the ACM SIGGRAPH WWW site, in Computer Graphics, and through ICA's electronic and print media.

Survey Methodology

To explore the fundamental questions that gave rise to the Carto Project, a questionnaire was developed and distributed to individuals in the graphics community. Since the survey population represents a very distinct group of professionals, no attempt was made to randomize; surveys were targeted at individuals who were assumed to be interested in the subject, and from whom a relatively high return percentage was likely.

The ACM SIGGRAPH Carto Project Survey was distributed via Internet Email on January 5 to 42 individuals and the ACM SIGGRAPH executive committee. Recipients were identified by the Project Director as individuals who had previously expressed an interest in the subject of the survey, or who had specifically asked to be included in the survey population. Moreover, recipients were strongly encouraged to provide copies of the survey questionnaire to colleagues whom they knew to be interested in our area of inquiry. Ultimately, nearly half of the 27 respondents came from this referral group who had received the survey from a primary addressee.

In an effort to maximize the percentage of returns, a concerted effort was made to keep the survey concise and easy to complete. The questionnaire comprised eleven questions, most of which could be answered with a simple Yes or No; however, with most items respondents were encouraged to elaborate in the form of comments.

Survey Data

Each of the eleven items in the survey is listed below. For each item, a tally of the yes and no responses is presented, along with a summary description of comments submitted by respondents.

Item #1: Are you presently involved with a visualization or computer graphics project that requires the use of digital maps (cartography) or geographic information systems (spatial) data sets? If you are, please name the project and briefly explain its scope.

Of the 27 survey respondents, 24 responded positively to this item. All 24 yes responses were accompanied by comments that elaborated on the respondents' computer graphics or visualization activities. A wide a varied array of projects representing a number of government, academic, and scientific communities was presented. Areas under study include software development, data storage and distribution alternatives, environmental studies, military/intelligence applications, multimedia development, reconstruction of historical events and settings, multimedia, information systems planning, and the environment. Technological tools employed in these endeavors include GIS, mapping, cartography, visualization, imagery, and modeling.

Item #2: What tools are you currently using to access digital maps and geographic data?

Collectively, twenty-four of the 27 respondents named a wide variety of tools. Most frequently mentioned were ArcView (9), and Arc/Info (8). For a complete list, see the complete Carto survey response report on SIGGRAPH's Web page.

Item #3: Is Internet connectivity required for your data-gathering efforts?

Sixteen respondents checked yes in response to this question. Even several no responses included comments that indicate that, although they don't use the Internet as a primary data-gathering medium, they do use it for sharing data and information with colleagues. Retrieving information from Internet-based databases is the most common thread in all the responses to this item.

Item #4: Do you use World Wide Web resources for data-gathering and geographic visualization?

There were 20 yes responses to this question. The Web was cited as a common media for data searching, and for distribution of data to other interested persons or end-users of proprietary systems.

Item #5: Have you used VRML or any other Web 3D viewer to examine geographic data sets?

Eighteen respondents indicated mostly exploratory use of VRML tools. Many are just beginning to examine existing VRML applications to investigate whether they should consider VRML for their own projects.

Item #6: Please name the computer graphics or visualization tools that work best for your geographic visualization efforts.

No common denominator was apparent in the responses of the 21 respondents who commented on this item. Many are using custom tools that have been developed in-house. For more details, see the complete survey report on the SIGGRAPH Web site.

Item #7: Do you have a need for integrated geographic data mining and visualization tools? What functionality would you like these tools to have?

There were 19 positive responses to this question, 15 of which were accompanied by comments. Again, a wide a diverse group of tools and techniques were cited. This is another area where no clear leader or popular group of tools has emerged.

Item #8: Have you used any specific data formats, or are there specific data formats you plan to use in the future?

There were 16 yes responses to this item and 11 no responses. Eighteen respondents provided comments citing a wide a varied assortment of data types. Several commented about the diversity of data types in use and on the need for a standard to be established.

Item #9: Do your spatial data have specific data resolution requirements?

Respondents were evenly divided on this question, with 14 no responses and 13 yes responses. Many cited the need for wide variability in resolution choices. The point was also made that this is a complex subject, and that resolution is very often an application-specific issue.

Item #10: Are you aware of current efforts to create international geographic spatial data standards?

Twenty-five of the twenty-seven respondents indicated that they are aware of these efforts.

Item #11: Have you contributed, or are you contributing to these standards efforts? If yes, in what capacity?

Only three individuals answered yes to this question. Of the six respondents who commented, only two have been personally active in any standards projects.

Summary

The profile that emerges from this survey is that of a respondent population engaged in a wide a varied assortment of computer graphics and cartographic endeavors. Furthermore, the tools and data types they use are as diverse as the projects in which they are engaged. Many are investigating the implications and potential uses of VRML, but few have incorporated it into their current active projects in any way.

Use of the Internet and the World Wide Web is widespread, particularly for data distribution and information sharing. In addition, a number of respondents reported using the Web as a search platform.

Little consistency is evident in terms of data types employed, or of the tool sets used by this group of computer graphics and cartographic professionals. Several respondents suggested that the establishment of standards in these areas would be beneficial. However, while nearly all respondents (25 out of 27) said they are aware of efforts in the industry toward establishing standards, only two reported having any direct participation in those efforts.

Conclusions

This survey compliments and reinforces the work underway by the International Cartographic Association's Commission on Visualization. During mid-1997, a special issue of Computers & Geosciences will highlight current research in exploratory cartographic visualization.

As the co-editors of this issue state: "The nature of maps and of their use in science and society is in the midst of remarkable change-change that is stimulated by a combination of new scientific and societal needs for geo-referenced information and rapidly evolving technologies that can provide that information in innovative ways. A key issue at the heart of this change is the concept of visualization" (see: http://www.gis.psu.edu/ica/icavis/m&kintro.html).

It is the intent of the ACM SIGGRAPH Carto Project to highlight computer graphics tools and methodologies that can facilitate this change. The survey discussed in this document is one of the first steps on this journey.

Future Initiatives

The Carto SIG at ACM SIGGRAPH 1997: Work is now underway to prepare for an ACM SIGGRAPH 1997 Carto Special Interest Group session to discuss desktop virtual reality and cartography. The intent is to foster the interaction between developers and contributors to VRML and other interactive computer graphics techniques with cartographic and geographic professionals. ACM SIGGRAPH 1997 will be held in Los Angeles on August 3-8, 1997. An agenda for this SIGGRAPH 97 Carto SIG will be presented and reviewed at the June 1997 meeting of the ICA's Commission on Visualization. menu


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http://www.siggraph.org
Questions on the Carto Project:
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Special Interest Group
on Computer Graphics.

Last Updated:
March 29, 1997