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Is a 3D web more than just empty promises?

Paul Festa and John Borland CNET News

Published: 19 May 2005 11:55 BST

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The time for 3D on the Web has come, insists Tony Parisi, co-creator of Virtual Reality Modeling Language (VRML) — this time for real.

VRML veterans like Parisi last month marked the tenth anniversary of the language's first commercial implementation. And after a decade of waiting for a computer graphics Godot, they're used to encountering scepticism when they herald the imminent emergence of Web 3D.

Bodies littering the Web 3D landscape include that of Microsoft's Chromeffects effort (shelved in 1998), Adobe's Atmosphere title (killed in November), and Intel and Macromedia's joint venture to popularise Shockwave 3D on the Web (which dissolved along with other Intel Web 3D alliances).

In 10 years of turmoil and tried patience, both VRML and Parisi have changed. VRML, after achieving ISO standardisation, in recent years has been reborn, under the auspices of the Web3D Consortium, as an XML-based ISO standard called X3D. Parisi has kept the Web 3D religion with a San Francisco start-up called Media Machines, whose clients include the US Navy and Joe Firmage's ManyOne portal.

Last month, Media Machines said it had acquired, in an all-stock transaction, Cincinnati-based Virtock Technologies, which adds a Web 3D authoring tool to Media Machines' Flux 3D software development kit, publishing tool and player.

Parisi spoke with ZDNet UK sister site CNET News.com about why the Web is finally ripe for 3D content, why the Web browser is yesterday's paradigm, and what the architects of the next Internet interface have to learn from gamers, among other topics.

Q: You've said before that 3D was about to take off on the Web. Intel and Macromedia said it was going to take off. When I look at the market for Web 3D software and content, I'm reminded of what they say about second marriages — it's the triumph of hope over experience. Why is this next period going to be any different from the last few false alarms?
A: The experience we're having at Media Machines is that we're no longer seeing the primary focus on the government client or the corporate client where we've been making our living, but on a daily basis we're getting inquiries from people who want to deploy their content on the Web. We're doing very little in the way of promotion, and people are asking themselves, how can I deploy a product showroom over the Web? How can I, an independent game developer, put together a game title and not have to cut off a limb in terms of payment?

So it's Web stores and gamers — the usual 3D suspects?
One of my customers is building a science and education portal where objects are being represented in a photorealistic way.

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