Hand-held computers that allow people to use electronic street directories that can zoom in on a street without losing detail, or let builders check detailed house plans on site could soon be a reality due to new software developed by Australia's federal science agency, CSIRO.
The software allows Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) - a new standard for high quality web graphics - to be displayed on Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs) such as pocket PCs and other hand-held devices.
This is the first time that Scalable Vector Graphics can be made available on these popular devices.
"Until now, the graphics for pocket computers have been poor or non-standard," says Ross Ackland, a senior computer scientist at CSIRO.
"Our software provides the building blocks from which IT and telecommunications companies can create mobile applications which incorporate high quality graphics. This brings exciting opportunities for getting visual information into mobile applications," Mr Ackland says.
"The applications are limitless - they could be used whenever it would be desirable to have a high quality picture or diagram 'in your hand'. Builders could check house plans on site, electricity workers could view complex network diagrams, or you could create street directories which people can interact with. In all these applications you need high quality graphics."
"SVG is an excellent graphics format for mobile devices. It provides high quality graphics that you can pan and zoom without losing image quality. It also makes interaction possible - you could pan around a street directory, zoom in to see more detail and then click on a location, such as a hotel, for information about rates and availability," he says.
PDAs are increasingly popular, with US sales doubling over the last 12 months. The CSIRO viewer works on Windows CE based devices such as pocket and handheld PCs.
SVG is a 'vector' image format. This means that, unlike 'raster' images used on the Internet such as jpeg and gif, SVG images remain clear and detailed, no matter how much you zoom or rescale them.
"SVG is an attractive format for application developers because it is based on XML, which continues to gain popularity. Also, SVG is an open standard, so our software makes it possible for all application developers to develop graphics applications based on an industry accepted standard," says Mr Ackland.
The SVG format has been developed by The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) - the same international body that developed standards such as HTML and XML.
Mr Ackland says that his team has been at the forefront of the emerging SVG standard, producing the first 'SVG Toolkit' for viewing and manipulating these new graphics on the web. Now they are the first to develop a viewer for pocket-sized devices.
The above story is based on materials provided by CSIRO Australia. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.
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