Visible Scalable Terrain (ViSTa) is a software format for production, interchange, and display of three-dimensional (3D) terrain data acquired by stereoscopic cameras of robotic vision systems. ViSTa is designed to support scalability of data, accuracy of displayed terrain images, and optimal utilization of computational resources. In a ViSTa file, an area of terrain is represented, at one or more levels of detail, by coordinates of isolated points and/or vertices of triangles derived from a texture map that, in turn, is derived from original terrain images. Unlike prior terrain-image software formats, ViSTa includes provisions to ensure accuracy of texture coordinates.

Whereas many such formats are based on 2.5-dimensional terrain models and impose additional regularity constraints on data, ViSTa is based on a 3D model without regularity constraints. Whereas many prior formats require external data for specifying image-data coordinate systems, ViSTa provides for the inclusion of coordinate-system data within data files. ViSTa admits high speed loading and display within a Java program. ViSTa is designed to minimize file sizes and maximize compressibility and to support straightforward reduction of resolution to reduce file size for Internet-based distribution.

This program was written by Paul Backes, Mark Powell, Marsette Vona, Jeffrey Norris, and Jack Morrison of Caltech for NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. For further information, access the Technical Support Package (TSP) free on-line at under the Software category. This software is available for commercial licensing. Please contact Don Hart of the California Institute of Technology at (818) 393- 3425. Refer to NPO-30600.

This Brief includes a Technical Support Package (TSP).
Format for Interchange and Display of 3D Terrain Data

(reference NPO-30600) is currently available for download from the TSP library.

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This article first appeared in the December, 2004 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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