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JavaOne is the largest annual gathering of Java developers and an eagerly anticipated opportunity to witness the latest technology trends. At this year’s conference in San Francisco, NASA developers showed that virtual globes are not only suited to explore geographic maps, but can also serve as rendering engines for other types of imagery. Tom Gaskins, who leads the NASA World Wind engineering team, demonstrated the first official Knowledge Planet prototype, a Java applet developed by the Austrian IDIOM Research Project that visualizes large document collections using a landscape metaphor.

Knowledge Planet

Project spokesperson, Prof. Arno Scharl of MODUL University Vienna’s Department of New Media Technology, describes how the planet metaphor allows the representation of massive amounts of textual data. “At the time of map generation, the knowledge planet’s topography is calculated by analyzing thousands of documents. The peaks of the virtual landscape indicate abundant coverage on a particular topic, whereas valleys and oceans represent sparsely populated parts of the information space. The landscape is then projected onto virtual globes such as NASA World Wind, Google Earth and Microsoft Virtual Earth. As only World Wind is available under an open-source license and allows full integration into existing Web applications through its Java Software Development Kit, it was the natural choice for implementing our prototype.”

The Java applet rendering the knowledge planet draws upon the extensive news archive of the Media Watch on Climate Change, which provides a continuously updated account of media coverage on climate change and related issues. Aiming to increase awareness and the availability of environmental information, the system filters and visualizes more than 200,000 documents from Anglo-American news media sites in weekly intervals.

Online Resources

  • Media Watch on Climate Change
  • Knowledge Planet

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