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ISO/IEC JTC 1/SC24 Plenary Meeting

The 1997 Plenary Meeting of SC24, the Sub-Committee of ISO/IEC JTC 1 responsible for standards in the areas of computer graphics and image processing, was held in Kista, Stockholm. The meeting was hosted by ITS, the Information Technology division of the Swedish Standardisation Body, and the national bodies of eight other nations were represented. The usual aims of the meeting, to progress technical and administrative work on standards, were somewhat overshadowed this year by debate over wide-ranging changes underway within Joint Technical Committee 1, the parent body of SC24. Concern over the timeliness and cost of Standards has led JTC 1 to establish a business reengineering group, and although the work of this group is still in progress, initial proposals for certain key technical areas that should be addressed by standardisation did not include computer graphics or imaging. Responses to these and other proposals are being coordinated by the SC24 Chairman, Mr S Carson, but until there are further announcements from either the reengineering group or JTC 1, the scope for the future development of standards in this area will remain unclear.

The Kista meeting saw significant progress on a number of current projects.

PREMO (Presentation Environments for Multimedia Objects) is a forthcoming Standard for distributed graphics and multimedia. The work has been ground breaking in the context of standards for computer graphics by building explicitly on object oriented techniques that have now achieved widespread acceptance. PREMO consists of four Components, the fourth of which addresses Modelling, Rendering and Interaction and which was the focus of work at Kista. Although it is intended primarily as a reference model, initial work on language bindings for PREMO has been invaluable in identifying technical issues that need to be addressed when developing bindings for future Standards that utilise object oriented techniques. The PREMO documents are expected to be issued for DIS ballot late in June 1997. Work on the VRML 2.0 (Virtual Reality Modeling Language) Standard, initiated in Kyoto in 1996, has progressed rapidly. VRML is a language for describing three-dimensional 'virtual worlds' that can be stored and transmitted via the internet and viewed using a plug-in to a browser. Worlds, like web pages, can be linked. VRML was developed initially within an ad-hoc consortium called the VAG (VRML Architecture Group), which submitted the VRML 2.0 document to SC24 for standardisation. The final text of the Standard should be available by the end of this year, within 18 months of the original submission.

Three activities were initiated at Kista, and are significant with respect to the reengineering activities mentioned earlier. First, SC24 has agreed a cooperative agreement with W3C, the World Wide Web Consortium, to standardise PNG, the Portable Network Graphics format for images over the Internet developed within W3C as a replacement for GIF. This agreement is similar to that used for VRML, and will mean the rapid development of the Standard. For VRML, and now PNG, scope for technical change to the material submitted by the external consortia (VAG and W3C) has been limited. The second action is a request from the Image Processing Working Group, via SC24, that JTC 1 establish an Imaging Business Team Pilot Project. This would identify user requirements for standards, market sectors that are able to contribute to standardisation activities, and market activities and emerging technologies that could contribute to the success of standardisation. Such a project should consider and address a broad community, encompassing business, government, national bodies and ad-hoc consortia, and was welcomed in SC24 as a positive response to JTC 1's initiative to ensure that Standards are timely and relevant. The third action was the appointment of a Rapporteur to lead a Java Study Group to survey and evaluate the relationship between the Java technologies of Sun Microsystems Inc and Standards for Computer Graphics and Image Processing. Java consists of a core language and virtual machine that can run on a wide range of platforms, plus a growing collection of packages for application areas such as 2- and 3-D graphics and multimedia. Sun has recently applied to become a PAS (Public Access Standards) submitter to JTC 1. The outcome of this application is certain to have implications for future standards activities in this area.

The author would like to thank the Advisory Group on Computer Graphics for financial support that enabled him to participate at the meeting.

D J Duke
Department of Computer Science
The University of York

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