Interactive TEX-aware 3D vector graphics

John Bowman
University of Alberta
Play (33min) Download: MP4 | MP3

(Due to operator error, the speaker video for this talk was not recorded — apologies.)

Asymptote is a powerful descriptive vector graphics language for technical drawing recently developed at the University of Alberta. It attempts to do for figures what (LA)TEX does for equations. In contrast to MetaPost, Asymptote features robust floating-point numerics, high-order functions, and a C++/Java-like syntax. It uses the simplex linear programming method to resolve overall size constraints for fixed-sized and scalable objects. Asymptote understands affine transformations and uses complex multiplication to rotate vectors. Labels and equations are typeset with TEX, for professional quality and overall document consistency.

The feature of Asymptote that has caused the greatest excitement in the mathematical typesetting community is the ability to generate and embed inline interactive 3D vector illustrations within PDF files, using Adobe’s highly compressed PRC format, which can describe smooth surfaces and curves without polygonal tessellation. Threedimensional output can also be viewed directly with Asymptote’s native OpenGL-based renderer. Asymptote thus provides the scientific community with a self-contained and powerful TEX-aware facility for generating portable interactive threedimensional vector graphics.