1.2.2 Applications and Technical Objectives

"Windows to the Universe" will be a RSDB application providing three prime modes of interaction which facilitate multiple learning approaches. In the individual learner mode, users will be able to explore the structured, value-added data on their own, at their own pace. In the group learning mode, the application will allow interaction between geographically disconnected groups who together can share viewing of data-spaces, interact via synchronous type-written communication, and jointly explore data sets and images. This interaction can occur spontaneously, via an on-line interactive text window, or in planned sessions in which an expert user can guide remotely located users through topical learning sessions. Finally, an expert user mode of interaction will also be possible, allowing direct access to a selection of formatted Earth and Space science remote sensing data sets which might be of interest for user projects. In this mode, data sets available over the Internet could be down-loaded to the user machine or to user diskette and displayed locally with available graphics software. We will pilot the approach of allowing users to download material onto computer disks that they bring from home or obtain on site, rather than using on site printers. Although these three modes of interaction have different features, they will not be implemented so as to be mutually exclusive.

In order to be appealing to the broadest spectrum of the general public, the application will be highly image and graphics based, and will include animations and voice overlays to generate added interest. Cursor sensitivity in selected regions of the display will provide the capability to delve deeper within a given image to zoom-into images, animations, or informational text. Alternatively, the cursor will allow the user to zoom-out from the current topic to other planets or the stars. A possible initial display screen would include an animation of an intergalactic travelers view of our solar system, showing the motions of the planets orbiting about the Sun and their attendant moons and rings, with important comets and asteroids indicated as well. The trajectories of selected currently operational and/or historically important spacecraft would also be displayed. The user would be invited to indicate via the cursor the mode of interaction desired (individual learner, group, or expert), and to indicate the topic of interest by clicking on the appropriate portion of the image and subsequent embedded image, text, or animation windows.