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A New Chance For 3D On The Web? 102

SiliconRedox writes: "The New York Times has an article on the efforts of the Web3D Consortium to update and reinstate VRML as a viable language for Web-based 3D. As with other standards it faces a tough challenge: it isn't HTML. Not many people are keen on rewriting an entire site in a shakey language."
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A New Chance for 3D on the Web?

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  • However, Perl isn't "shakey language". It's fairly versitile, and stable.

    Godot called. He said he'd be late.
  • I find VRML can do only one thing well - act as a common fileformat between applications.

    It's not general enough to be a major format, and it's not fast/cool/whatever enough to be a niche format.

    ps) Of course it's slower than Java - everything is ;)
  • by Greyfox ( 87712 ) on Thursday October 05, 2000 @06:19AM (#729662) Homepage Journal
    Some efforts are underway to provide OpenGL objects and verticies via XML. Check out XGL [xglspec.org] or BGL. for example. Given the industry push to XML, wouldn't one of these standards (Well, once they get a little more fleshed out) be a more logical choice? [opengl.org]
  • One obvious flaw in your argument:

    Without a 3d interface, it would have been all but impossible for Joey to retrieve the Gibson's garbage file.
  • Go get a copy of fsv.

    Find the line in the rendering system that says something like this:

    persp_height = (currentfile.filesize/(maxfilesize/2048000)* max_height;

    and add something like this after it:

    if (!strcmp(currentfile.filetype, 'h') persp_height=persp_height + (maxheight/2);
    if (!strcmp(currentfile.filetype, 'o') persp_height=persp_height/3;
    if (!strcmp(currentfile.filename, 'core') persp_height=4;

    No problem!
  • I agree. I think that 2D interfaces are the most useful for 3D creatures like ourselves. However, if we were able to navigate in 4 physical dimensions, 3D interfaces would be just right. And VRML would rule.
  • So maybe the current multiplayer games universe will be gently replaced by a 3D side of the web which is similar to the Massively-Multiplayer Online Role Playing games we see now, as people get the technology going

    I think it's more likely that the multiplayer games universe will gently replace the 3D side of the web. The "browsers" (the everquest/ultima/Q3A/whatever game engines) are able to cope with 3D better than a standard web browser is ever going to, and when you look at the beginnings of the crossover - Everquest and Ultima items for sale on eBay, it doesn't take much thought to see where it could go....

    To the patent office! Quickly!
  • If you really want to see 3D used as part of the web, try metastream [metastream.com]. The latest version of the technology is seriously close to photographic quality, and it doesn't want to take over your whole screen. It's not useful for designing an entire site as a 3D world, but it can add enough 3D to your site to differentiate it from others.
  • I don't think SGI's program (the one seen in Jurassic Park) was ever intended as anything other than a demo of graphics ability.

    This could prove your point, actually, as SGI also may have considered and rejected such designs.

  • by maggard ( 5579 ) <michael@michaelmaggard.com> on Thursday October 05, 2000 @07:13AM (#729669) Homepage Journal
    No, Apple didn't have a 3D Finder, at least that was ever publically released but they did (or better put, one of their then many many blue-sky R&D folks) did come up with a 3D visualization/navigation tool (read 'plug-in') for web-spaces. There was even a version of Yahoo that demonstrated the project, allowing one to fly amongst the subject catagories. This was in Fall '96.

    In practice one saw a black window (space) full of many colored lozanges each with a node's name. One could then 'fly' around them, zooming in (& into) them to locate information. Apparently the idea was one could index information in such a way that like material was located nearby in 3D space. Frankly it wasn't worth the effort though it had potential.

    Like so many other kewl Apple projects this got dumped when the company realized it was bleeding money it couldn't afford out every pore & started killing projects without short-term potential. As I recall the developer left & went to a start-up that quickly sank from sight.

    I've seached a few times for the plug-in but it's lost to the winds of time.

  • In 1994/5 I was creating simple 3D objects and environments trivially in the SGI software of the time (on an SGI Onyx/RE - not too dissimilar in graphics oomph to what we have on PCs today), and viewing them at an impressive frame rate, for the time. Arguments about VRML being slow at the time are irrelevant to the long term, given that even then we knew the PC graphics market was going to be wild. Arguments that VRML was difficult have less bearing considering that SGI already had the tools to make creating early VRML scenes trivial. Even direct editing of the VRML files wasn't too mind bending, although not ideal. I was, to say the least, enthusiastic about what was to come...

    Propagating a new software paradigm means that you have to spread it to as many as possible, as quickly as possible, before the initial glitz factor wears off and you have just a few early adopters looking around and thinking "oops, no one -else- is using this...".

    Then VRML shifted to a standard that was much, much harder to implement. Initially involved, VRML was now unlikely to see widespread adoption within significant help being given to multiplatform projects to visualize worlds in the new standard. SGI sponsered the Cosmo project - on the surface an attempt to bring cross-architecture support for the new VRML to the market.

    Cosmo, however, developed for Windows first despite the IRIX sponser, leaving SGI-based VRML enthusiasts feeling outcast (and downlevel). This disenfranchising the original userbase, now a lost source of positive proselytizing on behalf of VRML, was followed by the general failure to support -any- Unix platforms, a whole market where the VRML concept would have stood out as the only way to go, unlike the Windows market where VRML was only one of several choices.

    In the end, by offering no sample implementation, and by providing no way for the hoped-for userbase to contribute back into the source tree, the future of VRML was left focused to a detrimental degree on the Cosmo project itself, limited by Cosmo's failures, and stillborn as a result.

    But I still want VRML...

  • by Anonymous Coward
    I've been involved in 3D programming - OpenGL, VRML and related things for a few years now. I do like using VRML for storing triangle mesh data - it's a reasonably compact, sensibly tought-out file format, I think. However, it can't do everything that OpenGL can do, but perhaps with the XML version, we'll be free to extend our models in application-specific ways. VRML was always a bit forward-thinking. It will never go away, it will just be re-invented until the right circumstances and marketing (and killer app) intersect. My 0.02
  • I have been working with programming applications in VRML. What I found the most difficult was that it was quite cumbersome to create interactive content. Not only is the event model quite complex and requires a lot of code for little action, it is also cumbersome to connect the event model with scripts in Javascript (or in my case: C++ code). <p> Another problem was to find browsers that actually executed the interactive content, and did it to spec. I have found only one program that sort-of worked to spec: Cosmo Player, and even that program wasn't particularly stable when I used it. (we all know how good most web browsers are at Javascript)
  • You're completely right. Java sucks.. it's slow, buggy, and inadequate, but no VRML program/plugin I've ever seen has been great either.
  • ...that solves a lot of the problems people are mentioning on here is described at my site, http://vizbang.com. i'm working on an xml syntax (IAML, interface architecture markup language) that is much easier to author than VRML and is basically a different approach. i'm still working on the demo (i'm writing it on top of d3d in a language that the very mention of would offend most of the people who read this), but i'm not sure what's going to happen after that. the happiest ending i can imagine would be to figure out some kind of business model where i can open source it and pay people to work on that, but it's tough to figure that kind of thing out. if you're interested at this at all, drop me a line...my email's on the site.

  • by cr0sh ( 43134 ) on Thursday October 05, 2000 @11:32AM (#729675) Homepage
    Personally, I don't think it is so much as a world definition format (such as VRML) that is needed to get us there, but instead a new physical interface for displaying the content.

    Intermediate steps of displaying the 3D on a 2D screen work well for many apps, such as games. However, most games suffer from mainly dealing with movement on a plane. These games allow for a full 6DOF movement, but such movement tends toward being tricky for most people (which is why we don't have a ton of Descent clones). Only good gamers excel in these areas, and learn the control necessary to navigate in the environments effectively. This won't cut it with the normal "joe".

    We (people) can easily navigate in a real 3D space. Most of us played on the jungle jim when we were kids, some of us did flips on trampolines, others did cartwheels. We could probably still do these things today (with a little practice), and not get too disoriented. Why? Because we arn't keeping our head still, and we can sense (with our eyes mainly) the world around us, without this "frame" around it (like on a monitor).

    For the average person to be able to effectively explore and work in a 3D enviroment, that person needs to be "in" the environment - the term known as "immersion". With current "mainstream" systems (like games and such), there is no immersion. Increasing the monitor size helps, but becomes prohibitive (in cost) for most people after a point (about 21" for most). Even then, it is still a monitor. So, what are the options?

    Shutter glasses can add depth, but still only to the boundries of the largest affordable size monitor you buy. A projection system with shutter glasses can be really nice, esp. when coupled with a zero-force chair. However, the cost becomes quite high for the projector (because of the refresh rate needed for the shutter glasses) - let's not even talk about the chair.

    You could conceivably build your own chair, and position it close to the screen, so that the projected image encompasses your whole FOV. This is even better (in fact, this is essentially what simulators do - they may do it with a single projection, or a multi-monitor approach, with each monitor representing a window in the "vehicle" - multi-head X could do this quite nicely). However, unless you are pretending you are in a vehicle (like in Descent), problems arise when you want to turn your head, and look around.

    These problems can be overcome with an HMD - to do to full immersion. However, until you spend large amounts of $$$, HMD's tend to be low-res, small FOV affairs (though playing Quake in the low-cost VFX-1 is quite fun). This is the tradeoff for full immersion.

    Navigation then becomes another issue. Gloves have been tried, but they tend to be a pain (until you move up to say, a VPL Dataglove with a Polhemous tracking system). A cheaper method might involve some sort of 3D "puck" navigation device you could hold in one hand, with a few buttons on it to select options and such with.

    Feedback still has to be dealt with (cheap motion platforms are available), and the final bugaboo (at least in a full immersion setup) - simulator sickness (affects a lot of people).

    I think immersion is the key to getting a lot of people using 3D environments. It just needs to be cheaper to be accessible to more people (actually, it can be fairly cheap now - but most people won't take the time to implement it - still takes a bit of elbow grease).

    I support the EFF [eff.org] - do you?
  • (As well as Microsoft's Chrome/Chrome-effects[1], and other similiar techonology.)

    Looking across the room, I still have my VRML programming books on the shelf. And I still have archives on CD somewhere of the wonderful read-world models from Planet9 (Virtual Kyoto, Tokyo etc.)

    But the major problem with acceptance of VRML and Chrome was, in my opinion -- bad timing, which most people seem to interpret as a lack of rendering speed.

    Now, at the time I was thinking these things were really cool, I had the same video cards pretty much everyone else did -- a Voodoo, and then a Voodoo2. Certain of the games I liked required it.

    VRML, and Chrome, were both originally caught on as HTML plugins, typically in their own frame or imbedded on the page. Texture maps couldn't be made big enough to get good full-screen quality, and there was a great interest in adding commentary about the 3-d worlds: Read about this "Venice" you can be visiting! Instructions on how to use the viewer! Comments from users! etc. etc.

    Of course, most of the VRML words were designed simply enough that the hardware 3d most video cards of time used could handle it well. But--we had Voodoo cards! And voodoo couldn't do 3d in a window!

    Therefore, we were forced to render our 3D in software instead of hardware. And for the 150-300 MHz Pentium/Pros of the time, this was a lot of work. And the popular viewers, because they were browser-plugins, didn't support a full-screen mode we could switch to for hardware rendering.

    These days, will one-card 2D/3D solutions, I think that VRML (and even Chrome!) could work. But, if there weren't all these Glide games back them forcing us to buy 3DFX, it could have worked back then too. So I think we know who is really to blame :)


    [1] Chrome was basically a scripting language and utilties for "3d-web pages", which included such capabilities as hovering web pages which could be brought forward or backward, animated vector 3d-graphics, etc. As far as I was aware, it was never released pased a beta SDK.
  • You're perfectly right: VRML is not HTML. And a fish is not a bicycle. And apples are not, despite what you'd hope, oranges. HTML describes a textual document. VRML describes a 3D scene with objects and their interaction. Mixing the two paradigms will result in... something completely different.

    Isn't this getting a little silly?
  • What use VRML? I've asked this one at various web dev. gatherings over the past 3 years, and have yet to have one solid answer.

    I work with one of those folks who downloads EVERY new plugin/player/etc. and remember her being jazzed about VRML for about 5 minutes, and then it joining the other plaque in the clogged arteries of her pc.

    I'd be interested in some /. opinions on any use, really, any use at all, for this standard.

    There's some you can discount immediately, like CAD, being as there are far superior descriptor and file protocols already in existance and wide use.

    Call me stupid, flame me - but give me a "killer app" for VRML.
  • "Don't people use common sense anymore? is it not the purpose of products and applications to fill out some function or full fill some need of their users?"

    I wholeheartedly agree with that. Just take a look at my signature below:

  • Well, I think it is fine...but there really needs to be futher standardization than a proposal. Multiple plugins, formats, etc. How do you even know which one to use and code for and have the plugin available for download. People download flash and shockwave because they are the standard...would 3d stuff really be that effective unless the browsers and systems included them? I want to see more than just language proposals on the board!. -Corey
  • Unfortunately, the "internet" is still not ready for something like VRML. Notice, all of the complaints seem to be about VRML being slow. I have had some experience with VRML when it suffered through its early release and I know all to well that these complaints are valid.

    VRML is going to have to wait for the technology implementation to catch up. Broadband really needs to be.... well... broader. From my perspective, this still seems to be a few years off, as many ISP's (big boys too) still do not have a clear broadband strategy.

    For now, the marketing people will have to make do with VRML's lesser cousin, flash. While flash has some load time concerns in its own right... offloading effects and generally making efficient use of images works rather well.
  • VRML is Virtual Reality Modelling Language. It fitted in with other web-based technologies when last I used it. It's not a replacement for anything. What it is good for is the description of a 3D virtual world, with various APIs to interface into that. It was fairly regular and fairly complete in the version I used, and additions may or may not improve things, but please don't get confused as to what it is. As to ppl re-writing their sites, they already do that with flash. As to computers not being capable, they are (see Quake). As to flexibility, it is (hey, I wrote a simple 3D 1pp multi-user environment using it in '97/8). It's not as great at defining detailed 3D worlds as the pov-ray file format, it's not as wazzy as quake, but it is very handy at it's intended, general purpose market. Hopefully we'll see better and better browsers coming along.

  • It would be like the Gibison mainframe computer from the documentry "hackers". We could all put on 3D googles and view porn.

    Just 2 years ago I heard people saying "Not that many people are keen to interacting with bloated image maps on web pages either or even buggy javascript"

    I don't think much people like that stuff now, but does it mean that we don't have it?

  • What if someone developed a 2D animation system based on 3D acceleration? We know that 3D can make some very excellent 2D (Take Yoshi's Story. Granted, the game itself sucked, but hte graphics were great) What if someone developed a well-thought-out 2.5D navigation system?
  • Actually, I'd be keen on interacting with a 3D website, provided the 3D effect was done with stereoptic glasses (the ones with a blue lens for one eye and a red lens for the other) and the effect achieved within regular HTML via JPGs/PNGs. This would allow against either a white or a black background, for different elements to appear to be somewhat dimensional, and for emphasis related to depth to be added. Admittedly this would mostly be for the novelty value of the experience, but I've seen a lot of comic books done this way, and photographs can be rendered this way as well (not the newer photos with the refractive surface element, no glasses needed, but if the image is taken with the proper camera this is reall cool, and this may even be possible with the old stereoscopes which work on the same principle as those ViewMaster clicky goggle things).
  • "One of the intriguing things about virtual reality is that you can go places and do things that you could never possibly do in real life: be a fish in the middle of the ocean or a bird flying over the mountains. That's what really sparks people's imaginations about 3-D environments."

    Did anyone ever ask WHY?

    Why the heck would I want to be a fish in an ocean? For GAMES it's one thing. But for a data interface?

    VRML sounds like a neat thing. The movies make virtual interfaces look cool. I'll admit it. But I want to be able to read a document, not frag it. Not argue with it. Not have to run a virtual mile to go read it.

    Chas - The one, the only.
    THANK GOD!!!

  • Why not have a go with SVG?

    Well, from their description of it [w3.org] -

    What is it

    SVG is a language for describing two-dimensional graphics in XML.

    For one, it's missing a dimension somewhere.

  • Your legs can navigate a 3-D space, then, can they? Great. Modify your placement on the Z axis by plus three meters. In other words, move three meters directly above where you are, without moving forward, backward, left or right. Oh, and note that no other part of your body can move either, so hope there's no ceiling above you.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    3D displays and visualization have their place. The generalized statment you drew For almost all forms of information, a 2D chart or table will be clearer is patently false. There are many things that should be done in 2D in graphing, when you have a relation of the form y=f(x). However, the real world has many more independent variables than just x, so more dimensions of display are needed. One needs many dimensions represented faithfully or abstractly on the display in order to grasp how these independent variables interact within the function. 2D graphs give you fixed surface slices through the space.

    As for the statement of using Java applets to visualize... I am going to assume that you neither need to visualize huge amounts of data nor understand the various mechanisms required to do so. Using java for anything more than little web-toylettes is insane, especially when you need to

    • look at large amounts of data
    • look at data in 3D
    • manipulate data

    . Java in applet form (or "compiled" form for that matter) is simply not up to the data visualization requirements of even low level usage. To wit, compare VMD and Jmol for visualization of a simple protein. I can get at best 1 frame/5 seconds under Jmol for a less complicated rendition of what I get ~20 frames per second under VMD.

    Use java for silly web toys. Use real systems for visualization. A web browser is generally not a real visualization software, though it can be used to launch such software. You need accelerated graphics hardware for real 3D visualization, so this excludes most workstations that were not designed for such things (Sun's, IBM's, DEC/Compaq's). Only PC's with good OpenGL cards, SGI, and HP boxen seem to have a clue on visualization engines for desktops. Even then you need serious power to visualize the really big models. There a nice SGI Reality Center is useful.

    And none of these will run the visualizations using Java. Java is hype from Sun, and some of us have work to do, so we cannot waste our time on hype.

  • Most 3D applications really require the ability to specify behaviors. VRML had some of that, but if you wanted to do anything fancy, you had to go back to JavaScript (real-time geometric programming in JavaScript???) or figure out how to talk to it from Java.

    I suspect that if 3D on the web catches on at all, it will be driven by a system like Java3D, relying on VRML mainly as an interchange format for objects. Another approach that's kind of neat is what Yindo.com does: they take a small scripting language (Lua) and hook it up to OpenGL to get a very small 3D plugin; too bad it's proprietary.

    Of course, in some sense 3D on the Internet is here already. Just look at Quake and all those other games.

  • When I worked at the UofMn as part of the Gopher team I helped write GopherVR. Apple did a lot of useability testing for us. They were interested in the idea of 3D info-space.

    The Yahoo "project" failed because it took *some* of the ideas of GopherVR (but not all of them). The only reason to use another dimension (a third in this case) is because there is information that doesn't translate well into two dimensions. As it turns out certain info-spaces can benefit from this a great deal, library "card-catalogs" being one of them and there are many others. The Yahoo project provided no compelling reasons why someone would want to cruise the web in a very slow way when a much faster way existed.

    VRML, I think, is a good idea in theory because it provides a solution for the cases when 3 dimensions really helps. However VRML is bad solution that was founded on a lot of bad principles.

    VRML was suppose to be an open solution but when it came time to actually put a spec together people like Mark Pesce(sp?) had no clue what to do, so SGI came in and an announcement was made to the VRML mailing list that said "thanks for trying to help but we just met behind closed doors with SGI and we are letting them write the spec". Well, that has both positives and negatives but now everyone had to implement a rendering engine that could handle OpenInventor - which turned out to be very hard, hence a lot of dog slow VRML clients - even on today's computers. Not to mention the difficulty of generating these scenes.

    The other problem is that VRML 1.0 came to be months before it was suppose to be done. Why did the work finish so fast? Because we distributed GopherVR alphas on a number of platforms (and they ran kick-ass fast even back then). VRML 1.0 needed a lot more thought but politics and greed got in the way, so they (SGI et al.) announced that they were done. Stupid pride got in the way.

    What is even more stupid is that we were willing to help the VRML group but they didn't want it. We weren't even doing the same thing!! It was just hubris on their part.

    None of this stuff is a secret, check out the VRML mailing list archives to find out what happened.

    I like the idea of Web3D...I just wish they started over and threw VRML away and started over on the right foot. It really can be done better, it can be done a lot better. And with people who know what the hell they are doing it could succeed and help the people who need 3D on the Web.

  • It all depends on what you're trying to do.

    You are surrounded by banks of computers to your left and right.
    A corridor leads into darkness ahead of you, and there's a
    closed door behind you. You hear the door close behind you, and
    a hiss from the shadows ahead.
    > store pistol
    > wield shotgun
    An orange light appears ahead of you, lighting up the shadows
    and revealing the imp that has thrown it.
    > dodge to left
    Ok. The fireball's projected path should take it somewhere to
    your right.
    > fire shotgun at imp
    You fire your shotgun ... you hit Imp!
    Imp dies.
    > z
    Time passes.
    The imp's fireball impacts the wall to your right.
    > look
    You are surrounded by banks of computers to your left and right.
    A corridor leads into darkness ahead of you, and there's a
    closed door behind you. There is a bloody imp corpse here.

  • by Scot Seese ( 137975 ) on Thursday October 05, 2000 @07:49AM (#729693)
    Perhaps I can lend some perspective:

    About a year and a half, not quite two years ago a friend of mine had been experimenting with the 3D Consortium's "Cosmoworlds" VRML creation package. As a mechanical engineer, he had ample experience with Autocad, and 3DStudio Max, and found the transition to creating 3d objects and landscapes within the VRML authoring software to be rather simple.

    We (along with two other partners) formed a company to test the waters. Our staff included a web content designer (myself), a professional photographer/pre-press layout designer, a salesperson and our VR designer.

    Our process, and mission statement was simple: Construct high quality building exterior/interior walkthroughs that could run in a standard Windows web browser; The target being real estate developers, construction companies, colleges wanting virtual tours, and any other application that fit. The actual construction process is simple:

    1. Shoot room interiors with high quality digital or 35mm camera
    2. Construct room and/or models in Autocad, 3DSMax, Canoma, or Cosmoworlds and import to VRML
    3. Optimize texture pallette and quality for size; Trim VRML for same
    4. Apply textures to VRML
    5. Add scripting for camera flight through scene to create animated flight path; Add scripting for any moving objects in scene.

    The resultant output is a photorealistic completely 3D flythrough, user controllable with mouse or keyboard through the scene you have created. The image quality, and viewer experience is substantially better than the "scrolling panoramic java applet" style "VR" that many national realtors are using today.

    VRML scenes can have clickable links in them opening in any target window. You can stream audio content through them, in Real or other formats. You could drive an eCommerce site with VRML ("View the interior of your Ford Explorer, and click the seats to add Leather upgrade; etc.)

    So what are the problems with VR?

    1. The 3D Consortium wants a $15,000 membership fee. This is completely unrealistic for startups. Talent is where you find it, and sometimes that's in four man companies. There are other authoring packages than CosmoWorlds, but you have no feedback channel unless you are a member. The companies that ARE on their board are mentally constipated giants that seemingly haven't furthered VRML's cause in three years.

    2. While the finshed animation sizes are small (200-500k for a two or three room walkthrough of near-television quality), the CosmoWorlds PLUGIN required to view it is 2 MEGS. Cross-platform support is non existant. It performs slowly on machines under 300 MHz. On 56k modems, the shaded walls for the scene pop up instantly, but the textures pop up as they stream in.

    3. As with any new technology, clients have a built-in level of "FUD" just thinking about it. I could flop my laptop in front of ten company VP's and college presidents, and wow them with the quality and ease of use of the animations being built, but they just didn't "get it." Tell a University president that you'll charter a helicopter, and build a stunning birds' eye flythrough of their campus, including buildings, and all landscaping for $10k, and you hear "oh wow, we though it would cost five TIMES that much! This is great!" Then the waffling starts; and you lose the job. A three foot tall stack of printed brochures will cost that much; Apparently since the technology we proposed couldn't be touched it is tough to justify.

    Granted, we DID have a few forward-thinking companies use the technology. We constructed some presentations for the world's largest maker of ATM machines and security products. The potential for the technology as a training aid, sales tool, kiosk display, or presentation medium is amazing. The only real obstacle is the public's subconcious belief that new technologies must be expensive, unwieldy, too complicated, or hardware-intensive to be viable for them.

    If you belong to a forward thinking corporation, and would like more information, please email me and I will put you in touch with people who are already BUILDING amazing content with VRML; not just discussing it. ;)

  • Yes, 3D games are supposed to be, uh, challenging. If it takes you 4 or 5 tries to get Lara Croft to go across the narrow ledge and up the wall, then that's part of the fun. But as a base interface for a web site, what's the point? If I want to order a book online, I want to type in the name, check out the price and maybe some reviews, and order it. I don't want to walk through a maze of 3D aisles and shelves, pull the book out, and then have to bring it over to the 3D cash register on the other side of the room.
  • It is insane to expect client-side vector space calculations (which you need for good 3d) EVERY time the page is viewed. VRML sucked because it expected this.

    The format needs to be a binary one.

    -- Crutcher --
    #include <disclaimer.h>
  • Here we are. This site [lightbulb.com] has links and downloads for the plugin, plus some docs and tools. Most of the examples on their site won't be there anymore. However, the MCF version of the Java API is up and running.
  • While I agree that a lot of technology is used inappropriately, VRML or other forms of online 3D are vehicles through which new ideas can flourish. Some argue there is no need to make a faster CPU because the current technology allows me to do everything I need. However, as soon as the added horsepower is there, we figure out new ways to stress it.

    Someone will find an innovative and useful way to apply 3D visualization in a web-based environment as soon as the restictions imposed by the limitted bandwidth and graphics technology are lifted.

  • In fact, ParallelGraphics, the only company still developing a VRML plugin for Windows, has extended the use of textures to include Flash, they still do not provide interactivity, but I think that is the way towards which it goes.
  • About 5 years ago my ex boss got to sit in a meeting with some Netscape and SGI people.
    He had a really nice 3D software rendering engine developer by my skillful friend 6502 [netservers.com]. The engine was really good and could pack nice textured worlds in a fraction of those toyish Gouraud shaded VRML files. Unfortunately there was no way to persuade anyone to give up on VRML.
    If SGI had an idea on how develop products for the big public they wouldn't be in trouble now.
  • Take a standard map. Draw a line down the left side, and a line across the bottom. Where they intersect, in the bottom-left corner, is (x,y 0,0). Now, draw the third dimension, a line intersecting (x,y 0,0) and having a right angle to both x and y. This is (z). Above the map is z+, and below the map is z-. For an amusing thought exercise, draw the fourth dimension on there. Bear in mind that to follow the pattern a) it must be at a right angle to all the other lines and b) there must be one dimension more than what's being described, in order to give it context.
  • ...we say this, and yet Slashdot is written in Perl.

  • As always:

    http://partners.ny tim es.com/2000/10/05/technology/05SPAC.html [nytimes.com]

    Revelation Zero: The beginning of the end.
  • by Troed ( 102527 ) on Thursday October 05, 2000 @06:03AM (#729703) Homepage Journal
    Gopher isn't FTP
    FTP isn't IRC
    IRC isn't Email
    Email isn't ICQ
    ICQ isn't Web
    Web isn't VRML

    ... ok, I'm trying to make a point. Sure, 3d would be cool - but not as a replacement for the 2d web we have now. There are nice 3D plugins available for those web services that need 3D, but the rest shouldn't have to bother, at all. If there's an interest in a lot of new 3D services - then just build those upon TCP/IP just like everything else.

  • by billybob2001 ( 234675 ) on Thursday October 05, 2000 @06:07AM (#729704)
    Just what we need.

    Another dimension devoid of useful content.

    And we'll get advertising coming at us from all angles.

    But of course it will also affect pr0n!

  • Not that many people are keen to interacting with 3-D web pages either.
  • by neorf ( 223036 ) on Thursday October 05, 2000 @06:07AM (#729706)
    i can see it's a good idea and will probably look very nice, but really, i think it will be very impractical.

    like in jurassic park when the girl says "wow, it's a unix system, i know this" and then spends ages navigating round the 3D world looking for the right building. all that could be done a lot quicker with the style we use now.

  • Seriously, this is attempting to profit from ancient glitz that was retired years ago. Personally, I'd hate to see a 3-D anything that forces the client to perform the compilation process (see also: Javascript). It would be like having to download the .map file for Quake3 and then waiting hours on end just to have it compute the stinking lightmap! I can't wait for DOOM3; imagine, real-time lighting! Shorter map build times!
  • ....going back and rewriting their sites? I don't think people are going to bother messing about with this new "standard". I'm not even sure browsers even support it. It'll be a while before people start to take any real notice of it!


  • ... or HTML!

    Seriously though, VRML rendering seemed to be another level of difficulty to get right. Plus, factor in the lower interest level, and even the difficulty navigating in 3D vs. an html page, and you can see why VRML development has been languishing. The barrier to entry is greater, not as much bang for the buck.

    It's really the pet project of people determined to live in a virtual world. It would be cool to see better interfaces, but it may be a while.
  • by mackga ( 990 ) <eatshitanddie@slashdot.org> on Thursday October 05, 2000 @06:08AM (#729710) Homepage
    The place where I work used to develop and support a VRML editor/viewer, and we found that the market really just dried up - this was about a year to year and a half ago. Just no real demand for it. Basically, the VRML stuff was slow as shit - kinda like java, but slower (no offense to java heads :)).

    It is kind of cool and all that, but bulky. Also, there was a shaking out of the viewer market a while back when sgi basically dumped Cosmo. Seems to me the merits of the language and its application to the web just don't show enough positives for reinstatement. Just my two cents, you understand.
  • by King of the World ( 212739 ) on Thursday October 05, 2000 @06:10AM (#729711) Journal
    >MORE TO EXPLORETaking advantage of 3-D
    >technology are Web sites like an animated
    >nightclub with flashing lights and dancers.

    It's like i'm there man!

    (well, maybe if I switch to a 14.4k modem and pretend there's some fucked-up strobe light thing going on.)

    I played with VRML 1.0 and it was kludgey and awful (I built a church to kill knaves and saints). Ahhh.. but you say VRML has changed, I say I've read the specs and it still appears definately low-fi in terms of the abilities of an OpenGL app or MS-Direct3D (sure they may have been made to deal with different things but they're heading in the same direction - I don't need to tell you the web's slowly bluring location of files and software now do I?). AFAIK there's no bump-mapping, no 3D textures, scripting is klunky and inelegant.

    VRML, it was still-born.

  • by nigelb0 ( 234670 )
    Why not have a go with SVG [w3.org]? It's XML based and it works just fine.
  • I remember when VRML actually had some steam - it was when I first entered the web industry (about five years ago now I guess). My biggest memory of it was that it was *really* slow on the SGI machines I used at work.

    I guess there is some chance that it could take off now, seeing as there is a lot more computing power on people's desktops, but the main problem it will always have is that 3D is not a simple format for the average person to be able to deal with and author in successfully. HTML has had such a good run because of the simple fact that people can easily deal with the reduced spatial requirements that 2D has, and the development of visual cues is well-known. That pretty much anyone can learn the basics of HTML in a day or two (and I use GeoCities as my proof of that) is testament to the simplicity of the format. Adding another dimension to the mix increases the complexity by an order of magnitude.
  • Along the same lines... it seems somewhat unjustified and impractical to force a processor-intensive technology such as Virtual Reality into an environment originally designed for the very flat presentation of (mostly textual) information. Removing the 3D element into a dedicated net application would make more sense, and from there integration with existing services (not just web - e-mail, ftp, et al) could develop as 3D video cards become de facto, and increasingly people have the ability to cope with some decent effects.

    Of course, once that happens, we find out if there really is a suitable, more effective way to present data in a three dimensional manner... haven't seen one yet that isn't just for novelty value.

    The contents of this post are in no way to be considered the views or opinions of the author.

  • preception increased is a good thing.

    would a client 'enter' a 3D store to buy an item? they have already.

    would a client 'navigate' a 3D store? they have already.

    would a client 'purchase' an item in a 3D store? they have already.

    would a server 'hold' a 3D store? now the debate begins ... :-)

  • 3D enviroments, including on the web, won't catch on until they are simple enough for anyone to setup (with a lil work). The first person that stops using geometry modeling and switches to a physics model that can be programmed w/ half a dozen options and selecting default rooms and avatars (which could be modified) from a library and then gives it all a ICQ-like interface will probably find themself very rich. VR-online has been clunky ever since they started trying to switch from text to graphic interfaces. If the world seems paper thin or the controls are hard to use people won't like it even if it wasn't a huge download for them. When 3D websites work as well as Quake then you'll have more people trying it.
  • We don't need bump mapping or 3D textures; ordinary texture maps are big enough. VRML is good if you want to create a static world : it's fun exploring it with a VRML browser. But anything approaching realism will take from now to Christmas to download anyway.

    In its favour it's also pretty easy to write worlds in a text editor, and some 3D editors, such as 3D Studio MAX, have good VRML support. On my PIII-600 with a GeForce it's not slow either.

    It's true that the scripting is pretty clunky, although it's hard to think how it could be much better (have you tried Java3D, now that's bad, slow and hard to use?). The basic design is pretty logical, and if you're used to any other scene description language (e.g. POVRay) it's not hard to pick up. The event specification's resembles some Hardware Definition Languages, so maybe there's a venture for disgruntled electronic engineers.

    One of the problems, though, is that 3D scenes are inherently harder to create and to navigate, because it's easier to conceive a 2D map than a 3D space. But if 3D was so horrible, we'd still be playing Contra 3 instead of Quake 3.

    It may not be the answer for replacing 2D web pages (although GZIPed files without many textures are pretty small), but for playing around in 3D environments, it's a lot of fun.

  • VRML is a dumbed down OpenInventor [sgi.com] with committee add-ons.

    Open Inventor is Open Source (buzz, ding) which breaths new life into it. No more big SGI boxes for me. It's installed on a Linux box I have access to, seems fairly fast with a TNT2 class accelerator, I know people who are having fun with it, I'm about to once more. You can hack the ASCII file format like VRML and/or you can code it in C++, unlike VRML, mix and match ASCII/binary/C/C++, lots of funky User Interface widgets off-the-shelf (unlike VRML)...

  • I agree. but those days of really broadband networks may be a little closer. Nortel has a new optical switch which is 100X faster than the fastest currently available. Jason Lanier (sp?) spoke at the unvieling of the "fridge" and said it could be a big help in web enabled 3d and real-time virtually reality.

    But that big switch is probably 4-5 years away from common usage.

    BTW, I know about it because my brother-in-law hold a wack of patents on it.

    I think we need more than just marketing to drive the need for web based 3d - how about some really usefull applications of a 3d UI?

  • Apple, long ago, did have a 3d navigator... an experimental replacement for the Finder. the only name I ever heard it called by was 'Project X', and if I remember correctly, it was an OpenDoc app (could be wrong on that point). It was available, altho somewhat hidden on the Apple site, but Im sure it has long since disappeared. Didnt get to far into it's development. It was a dog for speed, and not very intuitive, or fun once the initial niftyness wore out.
  • If you've got a flash plugin to your browser you could aswell consider Cult3D [cycore.com]

    They even try to support the other OS. Thumbs up!
  • Even when 3-D is working properly, it takes some getting used to. There are no standard controls for navigating a 3-D space..

    So what exactly are these 'legs' all about then? Doesn't get much more standard than having been used for the last few million years.
  • by t0qer ( 230538 )
    I would have posted a vrml slashdot but cmdrtaco in all his wisdom wont allow the tag.

    <p><embed width="128" height="128" src="http://www.zeromag.net/rob/slashdot.wrl"></p>



  • Like when you just want to get a video driver or software patch of one of the "commical sites" *cough*3dfx.com [3dfx.com]*cough* you have to wait an 5 minutes all the NEAT GRAPHICS to load, 5 minutes for the shockwave flash, then another 5 minutes listening to your hard drive grind while it loads the java script, and if you are lucky your web browser doesn't crash, then it takes another 5 minutes to find the link the the software drive though the gobs of marketing PR BS.

    I just want to download the software drive, do you really need images, javascript and shockwave flash to do this?

    Sure you try to go to there ftp site, but the dir and ls command don't work.


    The only thing that could make these better is if you pour on a 12 minute download of a virtual world and a 20 minute render time, can you do that please? :)

  • It doesn't take a genius to know that nearly every implementation of VRML was damm slow even with a simple one object view. Something like 1 frame per second was not out of the ordinary.

    Ding ding ding! I'm kind of upset that I got into this conversation too late to make this point myself.

    The VRML viewers should have been written by game designers. They should have done a fairly basic BSP tree when you opened the file, and cached it, just to make backface removal and LOS calculations easier. The movement should have been a FPS-style movement scheme, with easily customizable keys, et cetera.

    If someone were to write a VRML viewer today, the best move would be to write a module for one of the more advanced first person shooters out there (Half-Life at the worst, UT or Q3A would be preferred) and let it do the motion and rendering. All you need then is a VRML to whatever map format converter, and a little network code, for which you could probably use the IE ActiveX control. This should be a relatively simple hack compared to writing one from scratch, and it'll look good.

    Besides, they could always make it so you could blow holes in lame VRML sites.

  • Witness stuff like what Wild Tangent's doing

    Granted the last time I checked it only worked on Windows, and there was a marginal download-delay (only in minutes), but *damn* you've got hardware accelerated 3-D right there in your browser. Real Slick(tm) stuff. I was thoroughly impressed, and it takes a lot to really impress me on the web these days.

    What we need is some sort of 'mind-meld' between guys like WT and a Flash-like setup. Fairly simple to develop for, quick download times, and quick execution.

    Three or four years ago VRML was 'cutting edge', a device without a use. Mainly because of it's limitations. It will have to surpass what's out there or become incredibly simple to develop for, like what HTML has become.

  • The project was known as ProjectX, and I think the name for the viewer (or some part of the scheme) was HotSauce. Google should have a link.

    There are a couple of 3D interface programs for Windows, thoughI haven't personally had a chance to play with any of them and can't comment on their quality/usefulness.

  • VRML's really not that bad an idea.. especially for simple, static, 3D worlds. It's reasonably compact, fairly easy to use, and is text-based, so that anyone can view its source and get first-hand examples of how it works. Plus you can export it from tons of 3D modelling apps.

    Everyone seems to be complaining about VRML's speed.. which I don't quite get. I've used perl to create VRML worlds from databases, outputting thousands of objects to the 3d world, and it still runs at pretty reasonable speed on any respectable modern machine.

    VRML was certainly born too early, and it's 1.0 version didn't have enough functionality, but with an update to the language, and with today's technology and bandwidth, VRML is a great way to create static 3D content.

    But it seems to me that no one's mentioned VRML's biggest flaw.. and that is that VRML is just not effective at specifying complex animations or character interaction. It can certainly be done, using a little inlined javascript or even java. But try creating the kind of gui widgetry that you get practically for free anywhere else. You have to write it all from scratch. Or try using that aforementioned javascript or java to do anything less conventional than specifying a motion path, and it's a real headache.

    VRML's realiance on a data-flow model is unique. And were there a decent gui-based editor - something like a Houdini or an IBM Data Explorer - for creating VRML, you might see some truly amazing content. But the passing data through nodes analogy is just not efficient when you're writing code. You end up constantly thinking how much easier everything would be if you were just using C++ and OpenGL.

    I like VRML. I wish it had a future. But, unfortunately, it's a clunky invention that, despite its virtues, does not fill the evolutionary niche well enough to survive.

    In short, VRML = BETA

  • Check out: http://sdk.web3d.org/resources/mpeg-4/index.html (the multiuser .zip is interesting) and http://sdk.web3d.org for some interesting tidbits. Seems MPEG4 also incorporates specs for the streaming of virtual worlds, while I am under the impression VRML is being phased into the .X3D format...
  • No, that isn't circular. Let me explain.

    The golden era of VRML was when Netscape was the number one Web browser and Netscape's own VRML browser Live3D (nee WebFX, became Cosmo Player) was included in the Netscape bundle most people downloaded.

    But within 6 months it had become clear that Netscape itself had gotten so big (and Cosmo Player and the others had gotten so big) that bundling the two together gave an unacceptably large download. And so, VRML browsers were unbundled.

    Add in some serious Netscape bugs that grievously affected VRML browsers but didn't affect HTML page viewing much (and therefore were low priority on Netscape's fix list) and some absurd hopefulness that Ma and Pa Kettle wouldn't mind installing a plugin that (briefly) was regarded as being as easy to install as a DOS game, and the mindshare was lost.

    And because VRML worlds weren't exactly ubiquitous themselves (building 3D is hard -- building effective 3D is real hard), a substantial number of people upgraded their Netscape installation (or replaced it with a MSIE installation) without ever knowing that they used to have built in VRML browsing capability and didn't any more.

    This was the occasion for the first of what have become regular biennial events: The Death of VRML (film at 11).

    X3D (sorta aka VRML 2001) is intended to break the ubiquity barrier. Trouble is, XML, on which it's based, is gaining mindshare at a pace that can optimistically be called glacial. Hell, how many web sites even have style sheets, for chrissakes?

    VRML has got a couple of niches now. One of them, the "3D community" niche is a pretty big one -- three quarters of a million people have visited Cybertown [cybertown.com] long enough to sign up as members and a good percentage of them participate in the full 3D experience (informal observation). But in comparison to the 2D web, that's chicken feed.

    An application that I think is really going to take off in another niche is Geo VRML [geovrml.org] where 3D geodata can be used to immeasurably improve the "you are there" experience of maps. Again, a niche, although it's one I'm personally excited about.

    And there have been some other really brilliant applications of 3D on the Web that together make up a third niche. You can find a number of them on my site [hiwaay.net] and on about.com [about.com] -- Sandy's links are better maintained than mine. Let's call that niche "hardcore 3Dheads", among whom I number myself.

    But in order for 3D to break out of those niches, it's got to be on every desktop. Huge plugins or controls to download and add to an already bloated Web browser won't do it.

    Nor will a new and improved standard or pseudostandard for 3D on the Web. VRML 97 has got plenty of headroom. Not one 3D world in 20 uses the simple but (if I do say so myself) fairly effective color, lighting, and animation tricks in this dolphin [hiwaay.net], for example.

    But until there's a way to get 3D into everybody's Web browser, or using some other means onto everybody's desktop, I'm not optimistic about the future of 3D on the web.

  • Modify your placement on the Z axis by plus three meters. In other words, move three meters directly above where you are

    Um, I hate to nit pick, I believe the Y axis is what you're looking for, that being the vertical one.
    Movement along the X and Z axes is easily achieved by walking.

    I'm going outside... to stalk..... Lenny and Charles.... Doh!

  • I've been watching (and occasionally participating) with VRML since its earliest days, and my career track has focused on large scale distributed 3d for most of the last 15 years. VRML fell through for lots of reasons, including bad tools and poor support by browser vendors with other proprietary plans.

    X3D is simply a mapping of the VRML language into XML. While this does buy you a good deal of cool XML features, like using XSL to completely remodel what/how your modeling, it doesn't address any of the core technical problems remaining to acheive large scale distributed 3d, and it in the name of backwards compatability it doesn't fix any of the remaining problems in the original standard that make VRML browsers "non-trivial" and hard to scale.

    In order to acheive truly large scale distribtued 3d, it will take a different approach. X3D/VRML may be able to play a role as an import pathway for relatively static content or inefficiently scripted content, but little more.

    [SHAMELESS_PLUG] For some time now I've been working to put the stuff I've been working on (that's raised tens of millions at startups like OnLive[Traveler]) into a public domain source base at www.vscape.com [vscape.com] - It needs only a few more competent coders. I know there are other people who want to make this happen, we just need to work together. The technology now exists, the implementation and design decisions are challenging and fun. [/SHAMELESS_PLUG]

  • I beg to differ. (But then I am biased.) A well-written VRML browser (and there are many, particularly the one from Parallel Graphics [parallelgraphics.com]) is at least as stable as Flash or Shockwave.

    Perhaps Jaron Lanier is right - computers will never be stable enough to be truly useful. Or perhaps people should stop complaining about the bugs and fix them...

    Just my 2 cents.

    -- Mark Pesce [playfulworld.com]

  • well, after your post, I went and dug out my old 603 machine which i havent used in years. lo and behold, Project X was on it. As someone else who replied to your post mentioned, the viewer was called hotsauce. And whaddaya know... I was able to browse local files on my drive, in 3d space using the standalone app, and not a plug in. Gee, kinda sounds like a 3d finder now, doesnt it? Also, yes, it was publically available as well, for anyone willing to do a bit of searching to find it.. it wasnt just a toy one of their devs kept only to himself. gg
  • It doesn't take a genius to know that nearly every implementation of VRML was damm slow even with a simple one object view. Something like 1 frame per second was not out of the ordinary.
  • there would actually have to be some demand for VRML sites... oh, it's cute for a little plugin kind of thing here and there (virtual kitchen or what not), but it's not the Web, and it won't be the Web... (hmmm, souunds like one of those 'TV will never catch on, it's just a fad' kind of rants). The point is, if nobody wants to use it, it doesn't matter...

  • by interiot ( 50685 ) on Thursday October 05, 2000 @06:12AM (#729737) Homepage
    From A Postmortem on VRML [digitalspace.com]:
    • For years I have been vocal (and largely unrecognized) in my views that VRML was being handled wrongly.. aiming at technical specs rather than what users wanted and what environments to craft that would make it easy for ordinary folks to make 3D spaces. All those 3D modeling tools, however wonderful, will never appeal to a large content community or be able to be used by the ordinary netizen. In addition, and sharing your frustration, the fact that multi user was never treated as a priority was a big problem for VRML and potentially its fatal mistake. Building 3D is fundamentally a social activity (in the real world) and VRML desperately needed a multi user virtual commons where people could come in and kick the tires of new objects or properties, carrying out their development at the level of a real usable visual space. The VRML mailing list approach was a disaster and brought the level of discussion down from the experience of 3D to "text only" code talk and politics. The few multi user vrml spaces made were either not open to the community for development or were efforts too small to drive the development of VRML.
    This reminds me so much of Snow Crash.

    Of course, the reasons could have been basic things like it was slow and clunky. But the above opinions seem valid too.

  • The other problem is that there aren't any good reasons for 3D on the web other than being a cool gimmick to play with. A 3D display of information would obscure pieces of it and require rotation or moving around in some sort of arbitrary fashion to find it. For almost all forms of information, a 2D chart or table will be clearer. In instances when you want to display, say a 3D model or graph and allow the user to rotate it, there are Java applets and such that work pretty well and don't require the installation of plugins.. If more detail is needed than a Java applet can provide, you can make a file available to download so that the viewer can view it in the 3D program of his choice. Mainstream VRML only means that we'll be waiting longer when we get to some page made by some dumbass web designer that thought 3D would make the site better. It won't.
  • It's been done before. VR has been overhyped, and overdone. Fortunately it died.

    3D on the Web? I don't want to sit around, listening to my processor hum while it renders an entire 3D world. With all of the advances made in high speed connections, they are now suggesting we slow down the page load time, at our own end.

    Basically, it won't work. It sounds like a thesis paper that got out of control.

  • You mean that 2-year old VRML book I got at the book fair STILL isn't worth anything?

    At least I can take solace in the fact that I never read it.


  • by bfree ( 113420 ) on Thursday October 05, 2000 @06:14AM (#729741)

    I have been waiting for ages for OpenGL accelerated hardware to arrive to the majority of consumer desktops....as this will fuel the vrml revolution. You only have to look at flash usage (on the better sites) to see how people are interested in creating entirely unique UI environments, even windowing environments! VRML is a simple language that allows the creation of complex scenes, but until the TNT level of OpenGL performance arrived, the scenes were rendered at a terrible level (slow, slow, slow). Once people have the performance to throw around a few thousand textuured polys at quake speeds, vrml starts to allow the redefinition of web interfaces to a new paradigm (billboards still allow the use of staticly orientated 2d surfaces).

    Secondly I think the SGI releases for Linux should assist in the generation of the content that will show the average user just why the 3d model is far superior for certain content (car showrooms online for example).

  • GNU isn't Unix
    Microsoft VM for Java isn't Sun Java
    Linus Torvalds isn't God
    Creative isn't Aureal
    IRC isn't ICQ
    UT netcode isn't efficient
    AFCArchvile isn't insane

  • by Anonymous Coward
    I am not Bruce Perens.
  • There was once a time where GUI interfaces were considered a fad

    "I just want to see my information!! I don't care about moving a mouse"
    Am I correct Lynx users?

    VRML is a gimmick right now. Only because it was born well before it's time. Nobody developed a practical use for it yet .

    Hell, nobody knew what to do with the Web when it first commercialized. "Why would I want to have a web page address on my TV commercial?" But that didn't stop anybody from trying whatever they can to make it a publicly acceptable information medium.

    In fact, I see data modeling and charting as a highly acceptable use for VRML. Especially when there are VRML ready output devices [slashdot.org].

  • VRML sucked, it will continue to go unused by everyone, and nobody will care. It's just another case of a passing fancy that somebody had, and now their ego won't let it die, so they have to keep re-inventing it until they get their ego stroked "no, really, we like what you made - not everyone thinks that it is crap - just 99.999% of the world"

  • Seriously, what problem or goal is it trying to solve or achieve?

    It is like "Hey wow *cough* we could do 3D world wide web, the information super highway in a virtual world *cough* I think this is cashed out, pack up another one"

  • >But anything approaching realism will
    >take from now to Christmas to download >anyway. I (hereby) agree with the entirity of your post.

    I recall a vaporware 3D world press-release several years ago that had some interesting ideas (ones that I believe VRML doesn't incorporate). Treating VRML like any file is a flawed method that wastes bandwidth, whereas this required it's own server to send fitting scene chunks dependant on the viewers position and focus.

    I'd disagree about the 3D textures not being suitable for VRML however. 3D textures are space-saving and people often resort to hacks in order to create texture whereas 3D texture allows heavy re-use for little bandwidth.

    I have not tried Java3D, I will now. Do you recommend or hate it with bile-ridden passion? and attempting to send the entire file

  • My experiences with VRML led me to these complaints:
    1. It was high on gee-whiz value, but there weren't a whole lot of practical applications (speaking only for myself) besides games, which it wasn't especially well-suited to.
    2. It is possible to come up with a 3D object specification language that's easy to use. VRML wasn't it.
    3. There were no good free modelers, IMHO.
    4. Every VRML viewer I tried had incredibly awkward navigation. If Doom had been that painful to use, we'd all still be playing side-scrollers.
    The biggest of the foregoing problems, IMHO, was #2. HTML took off because anyone with a browser and a text editor could easily build web pages. I understand the need for complexity in some applications, but there should have been a simplified basic syntax that would have made it easy to build VRML spaces for beginners. When the existing syntax is harder to use than POV-Ray -- which is pretty simple for the capabilities it provides -- forget it.

  • I'm a game programmer. Every day, I see the enormous efforts being heaped into making shared 3-D game worlds a reality. It is incredibly difficult; it is not a trivial task. State/event distribution and user interface are terribly hard problems.

    Rendering is the easy part.

    I find it a little... funny that the VRML is saying, "What? We can't do this in our web browsers yet?" when the game world is working full time to produce meager results.

    I'd say: Leave it in the oven for another decade, and I think we will all be pleased with what we find.

  • I have kind of a love/hate relationship with VRML - you can do some pretty incredible stuff with it, but the syntax is archane, and scripting support varies widly between browsers.

    A little known feature of VRML97 is the inclusion of the EAI (External Authoring Interface), which lets you tie in Java objects (or C++, in some browsers), and use the objects to dynamically affect the environment. Some projects actually only have a really simple stub .wrl file, and then build the rest of the stuff from a database on the back end, bypassing the syntax difficulties.

    Unfortunatly, the main reason that EAI hasn't revolutionized VRML and made it widely used is that not all browsers support it, and levels of compliance varies between the ones that do. Sound familiar (HTML, Java Applets, etc...)?

    The next revision of VRML shows a lot of promise -it's an XML-based language called X3D (Yeah, I know, another damn X* acronym). Hopefully, by eliminating the need for specialized parsers, the browser writers will be able to concentrate more on spec compliance, rendering speed/quality, and cross-platform availability.

    Right now, the best VRML97 browsers are Cosmo Player [cai.com] and ParallelGraphic's Cortona [parallelgraphics.com], but neither have Linux versions available (old versions of Cosmo are available for SGI). The spec [web3d.org] for VRML97 and X3D are availble, and are surpisingly readable.

    Scott Severtson
    Applications Developer

  • Okay. So far, we have some very good examples of working text interfaces and 2d graphical user interfaces. When we went to a GUI, quite a bit of thought went into designing where things should be placed, how the user would interact, etc...

    People have argued a lot about which interface is better-- I believe that 2D-GUIs are better than text for some apps, and visa versa.

    Maybe there just haven't been any really good 3D-GUI's developed yet. And maybe when there are, there will be apps that work very well in 3D, and there will still be apps that are more suited to text.

  • >You're perfectly right:
    >VRML is not HTML.
    >And a fish is not a bicycle.

    So you're saying that Feminists don't need VRML?

    Ed R.Zahurak

  • The first and most significant problem (which isn't related to the Web):
    the content is much, much more difficult to produce!

    There is no 3D photo (well, there is but they are quite rare).

    The second problem is that it takes much more bandwith to download 3D than 2D..
    As high-bandwith access (xDSL or cable modem) seems to take forever to become affordable (30$ a month for example), this won't change in the near future.

    The third problem is the standardization of data, it IS important but even if it can be solved, I suspect that download speed and content production are going to hold back 3D on the Web for a loonng time!

    IMHO everything of course :-)
  • That program actually exists. Or rather, existed (past tense). A couple years after J.P. came out, I downloaded the source from SGI's anon-ftp site and tried to build it. It's an SGI-specific program (duh), but the SGI-specifc code relied on stuff that had changed over the years. It didn't even compile.

    Hollywood picked a fairly old program when they grabbed that one. :-)

  • > Didn't we outgrow the term "VR" 2 years ago?

    I get this type of question quite a lot (being a VR researcher). It often comes with it's "practicality" counterpart: "what can you do with VR that you can't do with conventional 3D rendering?"

    My answer is always the same: If the genie of the magc lamp would give you a UI-wish, what interface would you go for:

    a) exactly what we have now?
    b) The Holodeck?

    choose b. That's what we're working towards ;)

    As for compilation on the client: despite the fact that everyone seems to flame Java on slashdot all the time, I find Java's compilation *on the client* to be a good thing. I dont see why this should be any different...

  • Aside from the poor quality, I think what has been the problem, is that it got replaced by better tuned technologies like FLASH & co, beause they are not specifically targetted at interactive 3d content only, but rather at interactive 2d content with additional 3d animations. Moreover, they`re easy to program, while there are not many good vrml editors around..

    People want content in that model.. 3d all on it`s own is not enough, and never will be of the quality a FLASH animation can provide, or a more specificly targetted program like CAD/CAM puts out..

    Imo, that`s what vrml came short of.. interactive 2d content, within a richer 3d world.

  • Consider this: SGI has had their 3D file system navigator for years. There's a little-known clone for Linux. Other than those two, where are the 3D ways to interact with your system? Why haven't MacOS X and Windows Whistler got 3D file system navigators, when the idea has been known for years?

    Simple answer: Both Microsoft and Apple have user interface research groups, both of which have at one time considered a 3D interface. Both have rejected them. They're too hard to do serious work in for the average person, and they use up too much CPU time. It'd be only for show. Note that SGI's 3D File System Navigator bombed. Nobody liked it.

    That said, why the heck would I want to navigate a web site in 3D? Doesn't it face exactly the same problems? Isn't that kind of.... stoopid?

    And besides, for displaying images of products, wouldn't a voxel technology have more success?

  • VRML has been around since 3D visualization was a clunky, slow reality on the web. While some of the VRML sites actually had some use (such as catalogues of 3D models) there was little utility in trying to navigate a 3D site using VRML, and little need either.

    Since the birth of VRML, the whole 3D graphics on the home PC has changed enormously - first person shooters, advanced driving simulations and many other games have redefined what we expect from 3D visualization. So now we are in a position to make use of this 3D technology on the web.

    But what does 3D actually gain us on the web? For discussion rooms, text is still superior, unless everyone has actual voice links and virtual blackboards on which to discuss ideas. Web sites merely relaying news are probably still best served as they exist today, as words and pictures, with the occasional movie file or music clip. So where precisely should 3D be deployed to actually be useful? Neal Stephenson's Snowcrash painted a vivid 3D world where users had their own corner of the multiverse, could travel and explore virtual environments and relate directly with Avatars, thus presenting a more 'immediate' environment with visual cues that relate directly to real world environments. Maybe this 'virtual meeting place' will become the new chat room over the next couple of years. We'll present a more 'natural' face on the web, but as with so many interactions on the web, we may not be what we appear in VR. There are no restrictions on how we choose to manifest ourselves in such a virtual world, be it skin colour, sex, size, augmentation or other.

    So maybe the current multiplayer games universe will be gently replaced by a 3D side of the web which is similar to the Massively-Multiplayer Online Role Playing games we see now, as people get the technology going. But I think for the bulk of the web, in providing information and discussion potential, will not go down the 3D road.


    Toby Haynes

  • IMHO- VRML didn't catch on because it was released too soon. When i started looking into it, i was on a modem and the vrml site took forever to load. Now that cable and dls are making higher speed internet available to the masses this might actually have a chance of coming back. Another possibility is use of hardware 3d accelerators. Since most current computers today have some form of 3d this could also make VRML much nicer to look at. Another issue with VRML is there really was no standard browser (you can go on pretty much ANY platform and run netscape).

    all in all, i'd really like to see VRML take off. It can only add to the internet's coolness factor.

Q: How many IBM CPU's does it take to execute a job? A: Four; three to hold it down, and one to rip its head off.