X3D BUILT TO MAKE WEB 3D EASIER, MORE ACCESSIBLE.By Rachel Chalmers The Web3D Consortium's X3D X3D Next Generation Three Dimensional
X3D Extensible Three Dimensional Standardization Initiative (CI No 3,596) replaces VRML-NG and is conceived as a way of making 3D content on the web easier to create and view. That's the perspective of Tony Parisi, a co-author of the original VRML (Virtual Reality Modeling Language) A 3D graphics language used on the Web. After downloading a VRML page, its contents can be viewed, rotated and manipulated. Simulated rooms can be "walked into." The VRML viewer is launched from within the Web browser. spec and now vice president of business development for Platinum Technology Platinum Technology Inc. was founded by Andrew Filipowski in 1987 to market and support deployment of Database Management software products and the applications enabled by database management technology and render related services. Inc's internet commerce division. Since acquiring VRML pioneers InterVista and Cosmo Software last year, Platinum has become a force to be reckoned with in the 3D web world. Parisi says the change of name from VRML-NG to X3D is meant to "reinvigorate re·in·vig·o·rate
tr.v. re·in·vig·o·rat·ed, re·in·vig·o·rat·ing, re·in·vig·o·rates
To give new life or energy to.
re the marketing message" for 3D content on the web. "Essentially, people should consider this as us getting together as a consortium and as an industry and looking at where VRML needed to be fixed," he explains, "we are responding to the lessons we've learned in the markets for the last few years." VRML has always been fairly widely disparaged as hard to learn, hard to extend, slow to download and generally unwieldy. Yet Parisi says many of those problems can be addressed with improvements in just a few areas. The first step is to strip down the runtime engine Software that certain applications depend on to run in the computer. The runtime engine must be running in the computer in order for the application to execute. It provides common routines and functions that the applications require, and it typically converts the program, which is in an , creating a far leaner core for use in broadcast platforms. Sony, Philips and France Telecom are all members of the consortium, and all are intere sted in using X3D in set-top boxes The cable TV box that sits on "top" of the TV "set," although it is often located several feet away in an equipment rack. The set-top box descrambles the premium channels and provides a tuner for the higher cable numbers that very old TVs did not support. and on other thin clients. "More than anything you need a core runtime that's lighter, that doesn't have as many features, and that doesn't take up as much room," explains Parisi. That's not to say X3D will be diluted for PC applications. Rather, the new standard should lend itself to domain-specific applications - a lightweight core for a set-top, and something more functional on a desktop. The next consideration was fixing integration. The problems with VRML 2.0's application programming interfaces were widely known. "They were extremely difficult for a lot of developers to use," Parisi acknowledges. X3D will employ a more straightforward object model, hopefully making it easier to integrate web 3D content with other applications. Finally, there's XML XML
in full Extensible Markup Language.
Markup language developed to be a simplified and more structural version of SGML. It incorporates features of HTML (e.g., hypertext linking), but is designed to overcome some of HTML's limitations. . "We're taking a page out of Chromeffects' book," says Parisi. While VRML's native file format will endure, a set of XML tags aimed at the web and HTML HTML
in full HyperText Markup Language
Markup language derived from SGML that is used to prepare hypertext documents. Relatively easy for nonprogrammers to master, HTML is the language used for documents on the World Wide Web. developer market should make it much easier for non- specialist programmers to develop and deploy 3D on the web. This was exactly the marketing message behind Microsoft's now-defunct Chromeffects. "We were inspired by Microsoft," Parisi readily admits, "they had the right vision." In fact, Microsoft will be participating in the ongoing design of X3D. Where the two technologies part company is that Chromeffects was tied to the Wintel platform, whereas X3D should work on all platforms. Ironically enough, the same Microsoft which coined the phrase "embrace and extend" has itself been embraced and extended. "We've taken their vision and bring it into an open standards Specifications for hardware and software that are developed by a standards organization or a consortium involved in supporting a standard. Available to the public for developing compliant products, open standards imply "open systems;" that an existing component in a system can be replaced place," Parisi gloats, "I think those are both goodnesses."