Graphics are Serious

I am always on the alert for converging opinions – that is when two or more writers confirm independently that an area or topic of interest is truely worthy of “interest”. Such is the case for graphics. Four fairly independent sources have converged on the topic of graphics and how that field is becoming ever more important in computing.

Now with both Apple and Microsoft making advanced graphics including 3D operations a part of their operating system with corresponding XML-based resource and layout defining files, one can assume that graphics are gathering import. To top that Java now has both Swing and SWT classes that are cross platform and also have XML-based resource/layout files. And to add to the ante, both AJAX JavaScript and Flash ActionScript (which is just JavaScript 2.0 with a whole bunch of predefined objects for animation and communication) have greater reach graphical reach plus more power with CSS, DOM, and SVG available from all the major browsers but one – Microsoft Internet Explorer.

In fact the great RIA – Rich Interface API race now has cross platform, cross OS, and cross browser contenders from Java, JavaScriopt, Adobe Flash, and Adobe PDF among other vendors. These tools are out to make Accessibility(read Information at your fingertips), so long promised by Bill Gates and company, a practical reality as the 6As – Authorized Access by Anyone, Anytime, Anywhere on Any device online or offline start to be delivered in unform and standardized ways. So at the grass root level, graphics is thriving.

But what Jim Rapoza, IBM, Tom Friedman, Jon Udell and others are pointing out is that the whole arena of graphics is alive with key innovations that are coming down the pike fairly rapidly. This is a quick summary of the Incoming Graphics Innovations and their impact on computing.

Jon Udell – explorer and writer at Infoworld
Takes a look at screencasting – Now that Google has validated high bandwidth video with the purchase of YouTube, the new documentalists like Breeze and Captivate from Adobe, Camtasia Studio from TechSmith, or the Web based tools from Outstart and others should start to gain greater traction. The problem with eLearning is that, like AJAX and JavaScript, it is badly fragmented into various proprietary camps. Partially this is the price to pay for developing software systems at the edge – but also since Microsoft has won Very Big with cunningly proprietary, who is going to argue with success?

Jim Rapoza – writer and head of lab developments eWeek
Looking back at my time at the SIGRAPH Convention, I am convinced that computer graphics are really “serious” technology and that IT managers who chose ignore the technology are turning their backs on information that could prove useful to their businesses. Here is what Jim was talking about:
SIGGRAPH Courses – This tells a lot about state of the art directions
SIGGRAPH Key papers – shows the orientation towards some practical uses
Special Sessions – shows the continuing influence of entertainment industry on graphics
In general, it is a “must” to be an ACM member to get more out SIGGRAPH.

Thomas Friedman, writer of The World is Flat, NYTimes columnist – Read Chapter 5 and the “graphic steroids” enabling Flat IT

IBM Systems Journal – issue devoted to Graphics New Directions

Games and eBusiness
Content Protection for Games
High-performance server systems and the next generation of online games
Running Quake II on a grid – this is fascinating for its server side lessons from a gaming viewpoint.

From these articles and coverage one gains the distinct impression that graphics, especially 3D graphics is important, and could even spring a killer app – the problem is to identify where and more importantly when. My guess is that the ability to turn on and off sound, Flash/animations, and video as one moves along a search+past choices 3D path edited(you get to quickly indicate the value of a search/step/probe not just by continuing on or backing up or bookmarking but also quick, direct click vote) will be a big winner if fast and easy. In general, something graphic like this may have appeal – its just search browsing with convenient smarts and a little more. It would also be nice to explore and record and change ideas in a Wiki-like knowledgespace that really encouraged you to at least browse those dozens of links. But some would argue Portals already delivery this experience. But I would say portals are like static web pages – they are somebody elses best guess at what you are interested in. As you can see by my gross speculation – Graphics are at least getting to be considered Serious.

(c)JBSurveyer 2006

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