Adobe introduced the ability to embed 3D content in PDF documents with the specification of the Portable Document Format 1.6 in November 2004 and supported it with its release Adobe Acrobat and Reader version 7 in January 2005. In technology terms, this is old, bordering on prehistory for some. I mean, it seems most folks don’t remember the world before the iPhone which is only just 10 years old this month. Yet, people still discover this capability, and it still generates interest, and even awards through its clever implementation.
Only just last month, Thomas Kehr and Herman Patel presented a paper written with some of their colleagues titled “Making Terrain and Models Portable Using 3D GeoPDFs” which won a best paper in the Emerging Concepts and Innovative Technologies category at the Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation and Education Conference or I/ITSEC. You can see the presentation and read the paper at the best papers page on the I/ITSEC website.
How is it possible that technology from some other era can still be winning awards while technology of similar vintage is consigned to the dustbin of history (Nokia N-Gage, anyone?) I was not privy to the decision-making process, but if I had to guess it has to do not so much with the bits and bytes of Acrobat and PDF and more with emerging concepts related to communicating the results of design and analysis enabled by new sensors, analytical tools, and design systems and innovative technologies to deliver them to a wide audience balancing analytical power with ease of use and paradigms more aligned with consumer-oriented software and products.
There is no doubt that, on the high end, the tools to munge data, analyze it, and create 3D models and visualizations have grown tremendously, and there has been a dribbling down of capabilities for the rest of us outside of certain 3D and VR games and applications. What has lagged is a means of delivery to contexts outside of the raw analytical and design environments. Sure, you can zoom around the design of a building in 3D inside the CAD system, but it often still gets built by guys looking at a sketch on a legal pad drawn from looking at a design sheet. Go to almost any construction site and you will see what I mean. The gap between the 3D haves and the have nots remains persistent, especially in contexts where it’s not all about the 3D. That is, in reports and records where the 3D is important, but it’s merely a piece of a bigger system. And it’s precisely here where 3D PDF, and 3D GeoPDF with its geospatial extensions for interactively displaying location and elevation information, etc., really shine. The paper cited above not only is in itself a sample of the art, it also contains links to samples of other 3D PDF and GeoPDF samples. I encourage you to check it out!
“Making Terrain and Models Portable Using 3D GeoPDFs”
Won Best Paper for Emerging Concepts and Innovative Technologies at I/ITSEC 2016
Learn more about delivering 3D location intelligence with TerraGo 3D Composer.