ISSN 2079-3537      

Scientific Visualization
Issue Year: 2017
Quarter: 2
Volume: 9
Number: 2
Pages: 49 - 63
Authors: A.E. Bobkov (Russian Federation), A.V. Leonov (Russian Federation)
Address: A.E. Bobkov
Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology (MIPT), Russian Federation

A.V. Leonov
S.I. Vavilov Institute for the History of Science and Technology of the Russian Academy of Sciences (IHST RAS), Russian Federation
Abstract: The article discusses the history of development of virtual globes, from the first prototype to the modern software tools that enable creating of a virtual globe to anyone. In the introduction we briefly discuss the similarities and differences between the virtual globe and its predecessors and analogues – traditional globes and globes based on the spherical projection screens. It is shown that the first patterns of virtual globes appear in the literature and computer games since the beginning of the 1990s, and the first prototypes – in virtual encyclopedias in the late 1990s (Encarta Virtual Globe by Microsoft, 1998, and 3D World Atlas by Cosmi Corporation, 1999). It is shown that the rapid development of virtual globes in the early 2000s was due to three factors: the creation of graphics processors for graphics cards (starting from Ge Force 256 in 1999), the launch of commercial satellites with high-resolution cameras (ICONOS in 1999 and QuickBird in 2001) and a crucial increase in the speed of communication networks (40 Gbit/s per channel in commercial fiber optic systems in 2002). The main stages of the development of virtual globes are analyzed: complete applications (NASA World Wind, 2004; Google Earth, 2005; Microsoft Virtual Earth, 2006 etc.), software libraries (NASA World Wind Java SDK, 2007; osgEarth, 2008 etc.), browser versions (Google Earth plugin, 2008; Cesium, 2012), and the introduction of procedural generation to enhance the visual realism of the surface at a large scale viewing (Outerra, Proland, Biosphere3D etc.). Examples of the modern usage of virtual globes are provided, including Russian projects: visualization of a natural territory with a complex terrain, visualizations of spacecraft’s orbits, and visualization of an underground geophysical data. Finally, we discuss the possibility of further development of the technology of virtual globes, such as the use of personal electronic devices as a distributed array of sensors (GPS-receivers and cameras) for automatic continuous refinement and updating of virtual globes.
Language: Russian

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