USA Aloft's Lewis and Clark software offers a graphical interface to a database of thousands of images of the Lewis and Clark trail along with text and other references. This page describes some of the major software features in more detail. While the underlying features of the software are operational, we are still working on the graphical user interface or GUI, so you should check this page periodically since we will post screen shots when we feel the product is nearing its final form.
To keep the lawyers happy: Because we do not have a release version we cannot guarantee that the final software will offer any of the features described below. Please read our Terms and Conditions. That said, we are working hard to make the release version do all of this and more!
Our software is based in the Java language. Because of the size of the Lewis and Clark database, we have chosen to deliver it in a physical format, probably on a DVD, but maybe on a CD. But the Java language makes it very portable. Although the initial offering will be for a PC, other platforms should follow. For future projects, if bandwidth for the database is not an issue, the release version of the software should also work embedded in web pages.
Once the software starts, the user is presented with a configurable navigation window that by default contains a map of the Lewis and Clark route. When the user clicks along the route, links to the images and other references appear in a selection window. Choosing one of those links then causes the image or reference material to appear. The choice of which links to present is made by the NaviMetrix™ algorithm. Using a second mode, the user may simply click to display the information nearest to the cursor without having to choose a link. A third mode allows the specification of two points along the route. In this case, the sequence of images between these two points is presented, allowing the user to "fly" from one point to another. Depending on the mode and data, various displays are possible, some permitting stereo images.
In the sections below, we describe the database, the navigation window, selecting with NaviMetrix™, the selection window and the displays.
The database consists of files associated with NaviMetrix™ position information. Typically, a file will represent a jpeg image or a pair of jpeg images for stereo views. However, any file viewable with a standard web browser may be used. Presently, USA Aloft has over 50,000 images in its database. Also, typically, the position information associated with a database entry will be expressed in terms of its geographical coordinates, that is, latitude and longitude. By default, the database is configured to search by latitude and longitude and to select all entries that fall within a radius based on the zoom level of the navigation window. The user may change this radius and other database configuration parameters.
The final contents of the database are under consideration. Here are a few of the possibilities.
Forward looking images. These are left and right pairs, taken synchronously and separated by about 15 feet to provide a 3D view from the front of the airplane, looking down at about 15 degrees from altitudes typically 1500 feet above ground level. Images were taken approximately every 10 seconds along the route or about once every 1700 feet. While intended to be viewed as stereo, normal mono viewing is selectable by the user.
Read about how to view this pair:
Lemhi Pass, looking west across the pass. Lewis crossed the continental Divide here on August 12, 1805.
Side looking images. Taken for both the left and right sides, and shot from the cockpit these images were also taken at 10 second intervals for the entire route. Some of these images have been matched to provide hyper-stereo views.
Lemhi Pass, looking south and north.
Plate references. Read about the Plamondon charts. This fine three volume series contains hundreds of plates showing Lewis and Clark's route as reconstructed and drawn on top of modern and historical topographic data. This portion of the database refers the user to the Plamondon plate that depicts the position selected. It does NOT present the plate itself. We highly recommend that the serious Lewis and Clark student have access to a copy of this three volume series. See plates 272 and 273 for Lemhi Pass.
Text references and other material. USA Aloft is collecting ground based images and text from historically important sites along the route for inclusion in the database. (Read about how to include your site.) We may also make our field notes accessible here. The geographic coordinates will also be available.
Journal Entries. Depending on copyright issues, we may be able to make the content of Lewis and Clark journals available. If not, we intend to provide page references to collections that we consider valuable. One example is Moultin's edition of the journals
Downloads. Over time, USA Aloft hopes to make further materials available via download to registered users. For example, we may fly the route again and make images available from that flight.
The navigation window permits pan and zoom operations on a map or other representation of the area covering the Lewis and Clark route. The choice of map is selectable: charts being considered include the Biddle chart shown above, a modern map with state outlines, rivers and major cities, aviation Sectional or WAC charts, and topographic data. The user may choose to overlay a map with additional information such as the Lewis and Clark Route. The navigation window has several cursor tools. Pan and zoom tools allow the user to move around the chart and zoom in for more detail or precise control over selections. Three selection tools provide the three modes mentioned above. Using the Nearest selection tool, the single closest database entry is chosen for display. Using the Radius tool, database entries within a certain user-specifiable distance are chosen and their links are presented in the selection window. Finally, the Multiple selection tools permits choosing two points for selecting all of the database entries of a certain type "between" the two points. The Multiple selection tool could be used to "fly" a route or to read all of the text commentary between two points.
NaviMetrix™ is the name given to USA Aloft's algorithmic system for relating user input to a "position". The user input may be drawn from any user interface: a mouse click, a slider position or some other form of numeric or textual data. A "position", while often thought of as a point on a map, may be far more: a point in space or time. Mathematicians call these positions points in a metric space; the metric space has a function that specifies how to calculate distance. Hence the name, NaviMetrix™, since it helps us navigate a metric space. As implemented for the Lewis and Clark route, NaviMetrix™ permits the user to select data for viewing based using a variety of means: most commonly, the geographic location, the date that Lewis and Clark visited a location or a keyword. Usually the user is unaware of the complexity, a simple click suffices. NaviMetrix™ works its magic to relate the various coordinate systems in use and the user sees the desired result.
The example above discussed a database with geographic positions. Geographic coordinates may be in terms of latitude and longitude, or grid coordinates, such as Universal Transverse Mercator (UTM). But a database entry may also have its position as a date or keyword. NaviMetrix™ understands how to relate these positions, at least in the context of this software. Using this relation, the database engine can select all of the entries that meet some distance criteria. Thus, it is possible to find the image "closest" to where the user clicked, or to find all text references within "two days" of a Lewis and Clark camp. Each entry that is found is presented as a hyperlink in the Selection window. This standard browser window may then be used to ask the browser to display the entry. By default, when the user asks for Nearest or Multiple selection, the Selection window is not displayed.
Each database entry should be viewable by a standard browser. So, for example, if the entry is an .html file, the browser will simply open the entry as a standard web page; Internet Explorer would open a .avi file with Windows Media Player. Stereo pictures are available as anaglyphs, as normal and cross eyed pairs. Anaglyphs may be viewed with red and blue glasses and any jpeg viewing software. Presently, stereo pairs are viewed using USA Aloft's java applet that allows for pan and zoom of the synchronized images. Depending on demand, we may support polarized views and perhaps a full stereo laptop display. We attended the National Stereo Association meeting in July, 2004 to investigate the alternatives. Read our stereo page for more information on viewing stereo images.