This part of the Clark paper provides a good start for anyone building a three-dimensional VE for which the total number of polygons is significantly larger than the hardware is capable of drawing.

The second part of Clark's paper deals with the actual display of the polygons in the leaf nodes of the tree. The idea is to send only minimal descriptions of objects through the graphics pipeline (minimal based on the expected final pixel coverage of the object). In this approach, there will be multiple-resolution versions of each three-dimensional object and software for rapidly determining which resolution to draw. The assumption of multiple-resolution versions of each three-dimensional object being available is a large one, with automatic methods for their generation remaining an open issue. Other discussions of this issue are found in DeHaemer and Zyda (1991), Schroeder et al. (1992), and Turk (1992).

Application-Specific Solutions

Polygon flow minimization to the graphics pipeline is best understood by looking at specific solutions. Some of the more interesting work has been done by Brooks at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with respect to architectural walkthrough (Brooks, 1986; Airey et al., 1990). The goal in those systems was to provide an interactive walkthrough capability for a planned new computer science building at the university that would offer visualization of the internal spaces of that building for the consideration of changes before construction.

The walkthrough system had some basic tenets. The first was that the architectural model would be constructed by an architect and passed on to the walkthrough phase in a fixed form. A display compiler would then be run on that database and a set of hierarchical data structures would be output to a file. The idea behind the display compiler was that the building model was fixed and that it was acceptable to spend some 45 minutes in computing a set of hierarchical data structures. Once the data structures were computed, a display loop could then be entered, in which the viewpoint could be rapidly changed. The walkthrough system was rather successful, but it has the limitation that the world cannot be changed without rerunning the display compiler. Other walkthrough systems have similar limitations (Teller and Sequin, 1991; Funkhouser et al., 1992).

Real-time display of three-dimensional terrain is a well-researched area that originated in flight simulation. Terrain displays are an interesting special case of the polygon flow minimization problem in that they are relatively well worked out and documented in the open literature (Zyda et al., 1993a). The basic idea is to take the terrain grid and generate a quadtree structure containing the terrain at various display resolutions. The notion of the grid cell is used for reducing polygon flow by drawing

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