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The growing importance of geographical information about locations forces us to look for new ways of gathering it. Static databases can provide us with enormous amount of geographical information gathered in one place. Updating that data is not easy. One of the solutions I think will appear in the future is dynamical database where people around the world would be filling information about their environment. However if we talk about geographic information we have to realize that simple human entity also should be described in a more specific way as it is also a GIS related information. I thought about appearing 3D geo-web solutions open on public, in that matter it sounds reasonably that there should be a new standard developed that would be responsible for describing human entity, ourselves literally speaking. Sooner or later that kind of descriptive file will be needed as we are more and more close to 3D virtual worlds that will begin to appear at first phase as public 3D social networks I assume (like GaiaOnline for instance). The file structure should be describing not only the personality of a human entity (text data) but should also cover more advanced features that will be needed later in 3D worlds, by that I mean virtual representation of human being, a 3D model. As we can expect file structure for that goal should have XML structure. We can easily include any type of text descriptive data as nodes in XML. 3D models can be expressed of course as XML files as well (Collada, X3D). The idea I have in my mind here is that there should be an editor (online, made in Adobe Flex most probably) available that would give user ability to easy create such a human entity description file (HED). Editor in its most basic form could be consisting of male/female 3Dmodel – user would apply his face photograph as a texture and fill the necessary text data. Then the application as a result would give a HED file to user which he can copy and keep in his devices (laptop, mobile phone). A standardized way of describing ourselves would be used by many social networks and applications that achieve data dynamically. The HED file would represent our personal data like fields of interests, hobbies, etc. And also a 3D model which would be a virtual representation of person. In the most basic format it would be only a standard 3D model with textures provided by user. But later on the online application for creating HED would give abilities to actually model ourselves to better represent in future 3D worlds. It is not an advanced process and similar approach can be used to modelling ourselves these days from photographs in DCC programs like 3D Studio Max. See figure 1 on the right. What is more, 3D model XML file formats like X3D or Collada give ability to describe animation. We could use it to create a specific way we walk or behave in 3D worlds, just like we do in reality. The description HED file or something very similar has to appear in the near future, I cannot see other way of evolving for social networks. What is also interesting here for me is the use of that HED files for GIS purposes that could be gathering automatically these files from our devices via Bluetooth or wireless networks and analyze our behaviours. For instance - the comparison where we are (location where HED file was gathered) with let’s say... what our fields of interest are – so that they could point us at things in nearby environment.
If we think about it in a broader view, we could also provide a similar standard file structure for description of buildings. Additionally, an application with friendly UI for its creation (our apartments or in more commercial approach cafeterias for example), and again the model and full description. The obvious drawback is that as it comes for buildings this data type should be administered in some way. People could be bending information about their homes and shops about their business. But that kind of dynamic approach would be better than manually gathered data, even if it has to be verified before applying to general database. People tend to give VERY DESCRIPTIVE information about themselves and environment if the purpose is to appear in social network or similar environment. That is one of unexplored sources that I think GIS should focus on. Employ in indirect way common people to gather GIS data.
Now how that HED file can be used? See the sketch and description below it.
// See pdf version for sketch
Sketch 1 : The simplest outline how the idea could look like in practice. HED files are copied to mobiles or laptop devices. When devices are in the same area, they are exchanged so that models can be viewed inside 3D environment.
We have people that have laptops and/or mobiles. Some of those people did go to online Flex application and created HED files for themselves (model, description, etc.). Now imagine you are drinking coffee in a restaurant. You turn on your laptop/mobile, start 3Dworld application (could be based on Flex and Flash Player on any other technology). Your laptop/mobile has Bluetooth turned on and is gathering information about the environment in a radius of 100 meters, in other words your application is looking for other people that have Bluetooth device turned on. Your Laptop gathers HED files from those people. You can look through a list of people, see how they look, what are their fields of interest, etc. (something like reality based virtual network). If we have laptops with GPS devices or mobile phone based localization we can actually place a person in our 3D application using his 3D model representation. The same could be done with building description files. So by sitting and drinking coffee you could be virtually walking in the nearby area and see the virtual people. Their position could be passed as a longitude/latitude values from GPS and calculated from position. In reality the practical problem would be that people have their laptops turned on mostly only during their work or at home. Mobile phones would be a solution as we carry them along with us mostly all the time. But having Bluetooth turned on is devastating for battery. GPS also positioning also doesn’t work inside buildings. However this solution or very similar using HED could be working very well in situations like conferences, meetings where plenty of people attend and we could be virtually exploring who is sitting next to us.
The conclusion here is that not only locations but people are also very significant geographical information. Gathering knowledge about them should be developed, and by them I mean not community but entities that then can be grouped. The big advantage in presented process is that you don’t have to describe each person as they do it by themselves. Dynamical, always up-to date creation of GIS data. As it comes to HED, it can be either understood as a single XML file (standard that need to be developed) or a package of few other XML based files which would seem more logical (Collada or X3D for model + XML descriptive file + JPEG textures, etc.). HED files could be also used as a standardized way of exchanging data between Web 2.0 social networks which doesn’t exist at the moment.
By Marcin Czech