— January 2003
By Ben Ellison
Stupid Chart Tricks?
|Part 2: Deduction: We ain’t seen nothin’ yet.|
If chart balls don't make you feel old-fashioned enough, take a gander at the blended cartography that first appeared in Raytech 4.0. Raster charts, vectors, topo maps, and satellite photos can all be mixed with variable transparency, yielding a custom view of previously static data. You're the mix master, and the results can be useful. Shoal soundings that might not stand out well on a nautical chart can be highlighted by blending in their aerial images; a C-Map vector chart can be precisely compared to its raster equivalent.
Nobeltec kicked the concept up another notch in Visual Navigation Suite 6.5, permitting you to drape the blends over a 3D model of the sea bottom and coast, then move your point of view around in that model. The feature requires a powerful computer and an excellent screen but seems capable of delivering to the navigator a remarkable amount of information. A good screenshot doesn't do this form of charting justice. Our gaming children will probably understand this sort of visualization easily, but we need the video.
I want to emphasize that these new forms of charting are in no way necessary. If you're shopping for a plotter or mapping program, you'd be wise to focus on the more mundane, but important, issues of chart presentation speed and user interface (see "Q&A," this story). On the other hand, the pace of technology cannot be ignored and may actually be moving a lot faster than we realize. At Pop!Tech Ray Kurzweil, inventor of voice recognition and big thinker extraordinaire, made a convincing and startling case for an exponential rate of technological change. He argues that innovation is at the knuckle of a steep upward curve that's difficult for us humans to comprehend. To put it into perspective, Kurzweil claims that all the astounding changes we saw in the last century would have happened in 20 years at the current rate of change. And viewed from this current pace, uncomfortably fast as it may seem, the far-out ideas that now sensibly seem another century away may in fact be working systems in something like 14 years! Deduction: We ain't seen nothin' yet.
Ben Ellison has been a delivery captain and navigation instructor for nearly 30 years and was recently editor of Reed’s Nautical Almanacs.
This article originally appeared in the January 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.