Interview with OMF viewer creator Bane Sullivan
The community surrounding GMG’s Open Mining Format (OMF) is expanding. OMF is an open-source file specification to facilitate the easy transfer of 3D data developed by the Data Exchange for Mine Software sub-committee of the Data Access and Usage Working Group. Early this year, Bane Sullivan, a graduate student at the Colorado School of Mines, added an open-source viewer for OMF (omfvtk) to GitHub. We spoke to him about the viewer and his related work.
Sullivan describes himself as a big fan of OMF, which supports most types of spatially-referenced data in the geosciences. He heard about it through word of mouth while looking for data formats to support visualization software.
Viewer part of a bigger picture
Sullivan created the OMF viewer as part of his larger project, PVGeo, an open-source Python package for data visualization in the geosciences. It harnesses Visualization Toolkit (VTK), a robust open-source visualization framework for scientific data. The OMF viewer builds off of a broader VTK helper module called vtki.
The viewer, Sullivan explains, “allows an intuitive way, in Python, to quickly visualize the OMF files and data structures.” It takes the OMF file specification, reads the geometries, then creates VTK data structures to visualize the information in a straightforward way.
There are still things that can improve the viewer. Currently, the whole process of transferring an OMF file to VTK is more like a conversion in memory. Though it would take substantial work, Sullivan would like to see “a direct link from the VTK objects to the OMF objects in memory.” This link would allow transformed or processed data in VTK to interface directly back to the OMF library.
The importance of open-source software
Open source refers to software that is publicly available and allows users to access, modify, learn from, and improve source code without having to buy a licence. In his research, Sullivan intentionally “seek[s] out open source tools” because they enable him to “do good science that is reproducible.”
Because open-source software is accessible, Sullivan says, “[it] enables scientific research to perform at its full potential.”
“I’m really focused on putting out open-source tools that will help scientists and researchers conduct their work. In this effort, I’m hoping to build up a community that supports interoperability for all these different file format specifications and processing libraries with established visualization software.”