blaxxun3D and Shout3D

Dateline: 2/9/00

One of the promises of X3D is the ability to create simpler "core" implementations. Both blaxxun and Shout Interactive have done just that with their respective proposals and contributions to the X3D process. X3D if you recall is the next generation of VRML being shepherded by the Web3D Consortium. X3D and VRML97 will merge by 2002 into a single unified ISO standard. Now back to the plug-in-less applets.

blaxxun3D and Shout3D are pure Java rendering engines that read a subset of VRML97 and display the 3D worlds smack dab in the middle of your Web page. The obvious appeal of both is that no plug-in is required. This is totally fabulous! Let me repeat TOTALLY FABULOUS! While plug-in's are not necessarily the big reason for 3D's slow spread it is an annoying fact of life and the ability eliminate that issue is a big help.

Paul Hoffman VRML and 3D guru extraordinaire recently wrote an brief comparison of the two. His thoughts (with his generous permission) follow:

SHOUT3D vs BLAXXUN3D: 2 Java-based "X3D Core" viewers (a personal evaluation)

See 2 examples of "ducks" at: (blaxxun3D version) (Shout3D version)

A big advantage in both of these viewers is that you can access the API (based on EAI) with JavaScript. Blaxxun is a little more direct, in that you can reference a named node without doing a separate call to get a pointer to that node. But then again, Shout3D's approach (get a pointer to the node before you can read or set a value) feels more structured.

Both viewers limit the nodes they will recognize to the "X3D Core" - which means no geometric primitives, among other things. They also both limit the "background" to a single image or single color.

Shout3D has the edge for me, because it integrates "examine" or "walk" behavior into the applets. The only way to do "examine" in blaxxun3D is to program it in another Java applet, and I don't think "walk" is possible at all.

(go to my Shout3D version and "spin" the spinning ship - you can get some pretty cool new angles on it!)

[side note: interestingly, the "examine" behavior only applies to the default Viewpoint - if you bind a different Viewpoint, you can't spin the model any more!]

I also like the fact that Shout3D accepts colors in the lights (all blaxxun3D lights are white).

blaxxun3D purposefully leaves out the ability to animate a Viewpoint by manipulating its Transform. The only way is to route interpolator changes to both the position and orientation fields. I'm not sure why they did this, 'cause you can get much smoother movement by offsetting a Viewpoint's Transform (playing with the "center" and "translation" values) and then just rotating the Transform - at least for "orbiting" style motions. So, this is another way that I prefer Shout3D.

Both viewers (when you consider the 1.0.2 update for Shout) read standard VRML97 files, either UTF-8 or gzipped. I sincerely doubt that there's any real advantage to using the Shout3D Wizard for anyone with a modicum of VRML publishing experience.

Either way, these viewers at least show that it is possible to modify existing VRML97 content to run well in them. (The "ducks" are re-purposed from my "Nebular Nomad" world.) - Paul

Paul S. Hoffman
Senior Interface Designer, Cognetics Corporation,
Company URL -
Personal URL -

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