A Disorienting Experience

I recently had a very disorienting experience while watching TV commercials. A computer graphic effect showed the camera’s viewpoint zooming in from a position orbiting earth, down to a viewpoint of a few people on the ground, then zoomed back again to high orbit. It is a dramatic effect, and very popular because more than one commercial uses this effect. And that was the disorienting thing. I saw two different commercials using this same effect, back to back. The first commercial runs through its camera motion, ending with a view of a starry sky. And then the second commercial starts with a view of a starry sky, and zooms through almost the same motion again. I felt like I orbited earth twice in 60 seconds.
I first read about this CG design from Ted Nelson’s Computer Lib book, he called it a hypermap. He only envisioned a 1-dimensional zoom, but later innovators created schemes that would allow you to zoom in on any spot on earth at any level of resolution, add links to other datasets (i.e. rainfall) and map them over a globe generated from realtime satellite imagery. Much of this technology is adapted from military satellite photoreconnaisance technologies, not just mapping but all computer graphics technology generally. A group of artists and scientists trying to hypermap the globe, but the most powerful expression of this technology is still military.

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