New visualization features in Luciad 2021: More than just a pretty picture

For Christmas, we released version 2021.1 of the Luciad Portfolio. Looking back at 2021 with its two releases, we have enriched and improved the products with over 30 features. While all these features are improving Luciad’s visualization capabilities to some extent, there’s more to it. All these features also fit into one of our four areas of focus.

1. Optimizing interoperability

First, we strive to support and maintain formats and standards to ensure interoperability between systems. Indeed, when systems can directly consume data from each other, this greatly optimizes the end-to-end workflow. No time is lost during data conversion, no data is duplicated, inducing extra storage costs, and there is also no information or precision loss.

Many of the elements added during 2021 relate to formats or standards. They range from the added vertical reference Normaal Amsterdams Peil, over support for point clouds in HSPC format, to completing the support for OGC symbology encoding.

Support for Normaal Amsterdams Peil

Support for Normaal Amsterdams Peil has been added to LuciadFusion 2021.0

2. Streamlining the developer experience

Luciad products come as software components designed for integration. Therefore, the second focus area is developer experience. For our Java-based products, LuciadLightspeed and LuciadFusion, we have ensured support for Java 17, the next long-term support release. We upgraded our browser-based product, LuciadRIA, with Web Assembly. Enabling Web Assembly, now supported by 93% of installed browsers, offers the benefit of reduced application size and better performance for highly dynamic applications. These are just two highlights from the new features that contribute to the ease of integration and development speed.

3. Speeding up performance

We all know that Big Data is and will remain a challenge for the foreseeable future — today, 2.5 quintillion bytes of data is produced by humans every day, and it’s not likely to decrease in the future. This trend also manifests itself in the geospatial domain. Therefore, each Luciad release includes improved capabilities to increase the amount of data our products can handle and visualize, by improving the performance. Supporting the compression of geometries and textures for 3D tiles data is one of the enhancements in the 2021 release. This compression reduces tile size and storage cost. Moreover, it increases the number of tiles you can stream to client applications for visualization. Big data analysis is a domain by itself. However, interactive visual analytics, based on the data currently being displayed, greatly contribute to situational understanding. The extraordinary human capacity to detect patterns and discrepancies goes hand in hand with visual change detection controllers. Both LuciadLightspeed and LuciadRIA offer swipe and flicker controllers, for example, that work on any view, with any data.

Swipe and flicker

Swipe and flicker controllers have been added to LuciadRIA 2021.0

4. Enabling situational awareness

Finally, we added various features to the products supporting situational awareness. The term “situational awareness” originates from the military domain. It is considered a critical element for successful decision-making. It spans knowing the current situation, the prior elements leading to the situation and the predicted future situation. Nowadays, situational awareness is a requirement in a broad range of domains involving the protection of human safety or of infrastructure. Based on our experience as an enabler for situational awareness, we offer a range of tools and features for data visualization and interaction.

In recent releases, we focused on adding realism to 3D data. Related capabilities include shading and shadow effects and material support. These features provide a better perception of the 3D virtual world and its elements. Fine-grained control of the 3D camera is closely related. It allows placing the operator in the virtual world by following a moving vehicle or looking from the cockpit of a helicopter, for example. Such a camera control is available in all our products, including LuciadCPillar.

Next to perfecting the visualization, situational understanding benefits from integrating linked or attribute information, both for display in labels or information panels and in interactive filtering. Filtering and aggregation help focus on elements that require the operator’s attention.

In summary, we continue to make sure that all relevant data can be presented to the operator, fast, and nicely integrated with other system elements. Moreover, the presentation of the data can be tailored to the task at hand in support of decision making.

If you want to get an overview of all features that were added to the Luciad 2021.1 release, have a look at this video on the Luciad developer platform.