A DAML Spatial Ontology

From: Jerry Hobbs (hobbs@ISI.EDU)
Date: 03/06/03

  • Next message: Adam Pease: "Re: A DAML Spatial Ontology"
    This is a message I sent out about a month ago to a haphazard list of
    people (basically, the people whose email addresses I had at hand).
    The present message is an attempt to send it to a more complete set of
    the appropriate people.  
    You probably all know about the DARPA Agent Markup Language (DAML),
    DARPA's contribution to bringing the Semantic Web into reality.  As
    part of that project, some of us have been developing ontologies, not
    necessarily as standards, but as resources that can be used for a wide
    variety of purposes.  Two efforts so far have concerned services
    (DAML-S: http://www.daml.org/services/) and time (DAML-Time:
    http://www.cs.rochester.edu/~ferguson/daml/).  They are at different
    stages of maturity.  DAML-S has been under development for two years
    and DAML-Time for one.
    When I talked about the DAML-Time ontology at the last DAML meeting,
    Murray Burke (DARPA program manager) said it would be great for some
    people to get together and do a DAML-Space ontology as well.  This
    message is an attempt to organize such an effort.
    The aim of this ontology would not be to drive out any other work on
    spatial ontologies, but to provide a way for different spatial
    reasoning engines and spatial resources to communicate with each
    other, as well as a way for people to mark up the spatial information
    on their web sites.  The goals of the effort would be to produce an
    ontology that would
        1.  Enable general, though not necessarily efficient, reasoning
            about spatial concepts.
        2.  Link with more efficient specialized reasoning engines for
            spatial reasoning.
        3.  Link with the numerous databases that exist containing a
            wealth of specific, e.g., geographical, spatial information. 
        4.  Support convenient query capabilities for spatial
    The topics we would want to cover include the following (where I've
    listed the corresponding topics that DAML-Time covers):
            Space                           Time
            -----                           ----
            Topological relations           Topological relations
              (e.g., RCC8)                    (e.g., interval algebra)
            Dimension                       --
            Shape                           --
            Length, area and volume         Duration
            Latitude, longitude, elevation  Clock and calendar
            Political subdivisions          --
    Please feel free to comment on this list, especially about things that
    are missing.
    Much of the work will be focused on geographical knowledge, but the
    intent is not to restrict ourselves to this domain alone.  Topological
    spatial relations are important in microbiology, for example.  Other
    application areas that have been suggested are the geology of
    earthquakes, NASA applications, computer graphics, and virtual reality.
    Of course to do a thorough spatial ontology is an immense job.  I
    think we can restrict what we need to do by limiting ourselves to
    _linking_ with resources, rather than _duplicating_ them.  For
    example, we would want to be able to interface with a resource on the
    shapes of geographical regions, but we would not need to encode its
    internal representations.
    As with DAML-Time, the aim would be to construct an ontology that
    accomodates many perspectives on controversial issues rather than
    forces a particular perspective.  As with DAML-Time, the strategy
    would be to construct an abstract ontology in first-order logic, and
    implement whatever part of that can be implemented in the DAML of the
    Let me know if you would be interested in participating in such an
    effort, at least as far as tracking the email.  But in fact, I will
    keep you on the list unless you send me a message to remove you.
    An archived mail list has been set up to facilitate discussion related
    to geo-spatial ontologies. The archive is at www.daml.org/listarchive.
    To subscribe to the mailing list, send an email message to
    majordomo@daml.org with the text "subscribe daml-spatial" in the body
    of the message.
    If you can think of other people who should be involved, send me their
    names and email addresses, and/or forward this to them.  
    Please suggest any research and applications you think should be taken
    into account.  It would also be extremely helpful to develop a set of
    challenge problems of varying levels of difficulty to help drive the
    development of the ontology.  Also if you think any of your papers
    would aid in this effort and might otherwise be missed, please feel
    free to send pointers to them.
    -- Jerry Hobbs

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