Archive for September, 2006
Here’s an update of glossary I wrote at least ten years ago, when I was working in VR more head-on. I think this can be useful for the next set of Web 3D discussions, if only to serve as common anchor points for debate. I’m not going to claim that my definitions are the final word on anything, and they’re very basic from an academic point of view. But I think they can help structure the dialog in a constructive way.
So consider the following a basic glossary (with cheap visuals) of virtual worlds:
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The research web page has more info. I didn’t read the paper yet, but it seems to be inferring 3D information from just the 2D image, which is hard.
The video is pretty carefully navigated to avoid the black (or stretched-out) areas where there isn’t enough visual information to see (like if you tried to go to the side of the building that wasn’t included in the photo). The effect would happen quite a bit. But still, this is useful for being able to navigate slightly around 3D images, or, I imagine, if you have multiple images from multiple sides of an object, it might be enough to finish a sort of reasonable “convex hull” of the object.
This is a late addition to the interview roster. Joshua was kind enough to offer his time to answer some of the same questions I’m asking everyone, plus some that are unique to his company, Kaon Interactive, which does many of those interactive 3D product brochures (among other things) you see on the Web. As such, he’s had to solve a lot of Web-3D-related problems for the last 5 years or more. Please enjoy.
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A couple of changes to the roster to mention, plus an open question to the community, whoever is reading this. Joshua Smith of Kaon stepped up to the plate for some Q&A, which will appear tomorrow morning as Part 4. Jerry has the flu, so his part may be delayed a bit. And Cory’s Q&A is on hold due to scheduling issues. Vlad’s Q&A is completely done and ready to go, but I’d like that to tie in with the technical discussion next week or the week after. If there’s a clamor, I can post it sooner, even if it’s out of order. It’s all good stuff.
I’m going to keep my next non-Q&A installment somewhat brief, especially compared to my last one. I’d like to split it into three parts: one part will be a visual glossary of terms, one part will be my own experience, and one part I’ll leave open for audience participation. So consider this a call for participation. Consider the question: What is 3D good for?
Please send links to or descriptions of notable examples (use the comments here or email me) of 3D, either on the Web, or used as an interface to something else, that you think show the power of 3D over traditional interfaces. I can think of a number of examples that rely on fancier hardware (CAVEs, HMDs, etc..) but let’s collect a short-list of the best and brightest examples of 3D used in your basic PC/mac/Linux desktop environment. The more we get, the better the next article will be. I’ll do my part with the high-level stuff, so please pitch in if you can.
Also, let me know if anyone wants a version of this series in vanilla HTML, black text on white background, etc.. You can already to that via RSS or by using the “print” profile (e.g., when you print preview). But it’s easy for me to do, if there’s any demand.
In Part 1, we recognized that after years of breathy hype and expectation, Web 3D, as a mass medium, is beginning to take on a more solid form. Even if we subscribe to Tony Parisi’s optimism from Part 2, we still probably have a way to go before we reach the kind of "tipping point" the Web enjoys, despite the ample capabilities of our current 3D hardware.
It’s not that we haven’t tried. And there are a few notable successes to toast (see below). But thus far, the goals and the realities of the broader Web-as-3D metaphor haven’t quite jelled. Read the rest of this entry »
[Editorial note: this is a slight re-arrangement of the previous interview schedule. I hope to put Jerry's interview out as Part 4 sometime soon. I expect Part 3 to proceed as planned, probably posting on Wednesday if all goes well... This is probably the shortest of the three interviews thus far, but only because we did it all in one iteration. Please enjoy. More to come. ]
Tony Parisi is President and CEO of Media Machines. He is co-creator of the Virtual Reality Modeling Language (VRML), the ISO standard for 3D graphics on the World Wide Web, and is widely recognized as an expert in standards, technologies and emerging markets for interactive rich media. In 1995 Tony founded Intervista Software, an early innovator in real-time, networked 3D graphics technology and developed WorldView™, the first real-time VRML viewer for Microsoft Windows. In 1998 Intervista was purchased by PLATINUM technology, inc. and Tony joined the company to lead business affairs for its 3D visualization group. Tony founded Media Machines in 2001 and is spearheading the development of FLUX™ , a real-time 3D technology that continues to push the envelope in interactive graphics for the web. Tony is also a lead editor and co-chair of the Extensible 3D (X3D) Specification, the new standard for Web3D graphics being developed by the Web3D Consortium.
I read this last week and was intrigued, though puzzled. New Scientist seems to have made this available for a short period of time, so go for it. Have a look.
The basic idea is that a specially shaped microwave resonance chamber, in this case, a truncated cone, when injected with microwaves, produces more force out one end than the other, providing a small bit of thrust. It’s enough, the inventor says, to keep a satellite in its proper orbit. It’s not nearly enough, as of yet, to lift a car. It’s certainly not any sort of perpetual motion machine, because the energy input is high. The point is really that it converts electricity to thurst with no moving parts and theoretically no loss of mass, so it has a much longer life than, say, an ion engine or conventional chemical thruster.
If you look at purely newtonian dynamics, it shouldn’t work. No matter what shape the chamber, all of the internal forces should cancel out. Unless, that is, the microwaves leak out one side more than the other. And if this whole technology is a dead end, that’s my guess for what’s wrong with it. Reflections along the length of the cylinder may be better contained (like light in fiber optics). But more energy may be leaking from the fat end of the conic section and so the measured thrust would, in that case, come from the heating of the air nearby, kind of like that old toy that spins when you shine a light on it. And this has to work in a vacuum.
But what do I know? I’m not a phycisist. The claim is that there’s a relativistic effect, though it’s not clear to me why that would be biased towards the fat end. That’s the part I don’t understand. If anyone does, feel free to chime in with an explanation even someone like me could understand.
Either way, “the end of wings and wheels” is a bit premature. But longer-lasting satellites might be in the cards.
[Kutaragi] suggested an "open environment" for the networked world of games – in other words, all hardware manufacturers would be able to use this networked world, much as the Internet is an open protocol used by everyone. His grand vision is clearly a major shared ‘open network’ for all game resources. This may explain some of Sony’s antipathy to Xbox Live-like managed services – Sony apparently believes that in order for everyone to reap the benefits, the online systems must be open to all.
This stands in contrast to Sony other DRM-laden approaches to the universe, music, movies, and even the production of console titles themselves.
But it sounds like "content" is about to become king again. Boy, wouldn’t it be great if we got past content as simply more and more digitial art? Pretty soon, we’re going to have more instances of every possible object than we can handle.
I hope it’s not registration-only, but at least it’s free. The gist is that while previous versions of airline in-flight entertainment have been limited to what I’d call "light-weight" games like Tetris and Who Wants to be a Millionaire (light-weight = in terms of CPU), the Sims 2 requires some hardware. If they’re going to make that level of power available to even a small fraction of the 200-300 customers on any flight at once, we’re talking about some serious hardware upgrades for airlines, in consoles or rack-mounted PCs.
Which makes me wonder why we’re not seeing Google Earth on the list? If there’s any application that ever made sense to use in-flight, that’s the one (I also mentioned a while back about the idea of stitching a 360 of video panorama from around the plane in real-time).
But the biggest thing airplanes are lacking right now is multi-player games. My wife and I tried playing Othello, two people using one controller in series. Not so hot. I suppose there’s always the risk that terrorists could use an airplane-hosted version of Counter Strike to plan their next move. But really, in-flight entertainment is all about passing the time.
This series of articles was inspired by my quest to find a functional "Web 3D" solution for several startup ideas I have in development (no details now, other that they could really use "Web 3D"). The need actually goes back to the 1990s, for me personally, when I was involved with several other heavily Networked 3D startups, the most successful of which decided to roll their own custom solutions and make them work.
I’ll describe those in more detail in a minute. But for readers of little patience, the one-sentence summary of this sprawling multi-part article is to ask the question "Where is Web 3D?" and then try to answer it, both in terms of history, the present, and the future we can hopefully look forward to. In the process, I’ve assembled interviews with a number of people working in the field and interspersed the narrative with my own somewhat skeptical real-life experience, having been at this VR thing for close to 15 years now.