In recent years, techniques for compressing two-dimensional images, such as photos, have become highly sophisticated. Digitally specifying every detail of a complicated, three-dimensional surface, however, continues to put a tremendous strain on a computer’s resources for data storage, manipulation, and transmission.
That may change. At last month’s SIGGRAPH conference in New Orleans, computer scientists at Bell Laboratories in Murray Hill, N.J., and the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena described a technique that would make it practical to transmit detailed three-dimensional data over the Internet and to work with the information on a personal computer. (See http://cm.bell-labs.com/who/wim/papers/compression/index.html.) The technique uses various meshes of triangles to represent surfaces and includes a novel application of so-called wavelet transformations, which are often used to streamline image processing.