By Brett Wiesner - Recently I gave a presentation at IMAGE 2011 in Scottsdale, Arizona and at an NDIA meeting in Fairfax, Virginia on the benefits of Open Streaming Terrain (OST). I thought I’d share just a brief synopsis of that here.
Terrain databases are an important part of any simulation and there are four main approaches for building terrain databases. You have hand modeled terrains that are built by artists and 3D modelers. There are tool generated terrain databases that are built by terrain generation tools. You have direct from source terrains that are constructed on the fly from source data in the client application. And finally you have streaming terrain, where content is streamed from a sever to a client directly. Each of these terrain approaches has its advantages and drawbacks.
Open Streaming Terrain (OST) is a kind of streaming terrain, where the data (elevation, imagery and feature data like roads and building footprints) is streamed from a server to a client using open standards. It’s the open standards thing that’s the important part. See, by using WMS, WFS, TMS or any of the open standards looked after by an open governing body like the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) or Open Source Geospatial Foundation (OSGeo) you can build an application that “talks” to other compliant applications and can take advantage of petabytes of free (or fee) source data thats out there on the internet right now.
Need to simulate in a specific area of the world but don’t have a terrain database for that area? If you simulator was equipped to talk to an Open Streaming Terrain server then you’d be able to connect to any of the numerous servers that have elevation and imagery for the whole world and possibly connect to some municipal server that has feature data for the cities in that area and you’re good to go.
The OST approach isn’t the holy grail of terrain databases; there never will be a single terrain approach that solves everyone’s needs, but if you need very large terrains and don’t require super high fidelity terrain needed for room clearing scenarios in an FPS type trainer then the OST approach might be for you.