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Dynamic Deformation and Authoring

OK so now we know we can drive VRML worlds with music. What about driving VRML and/or creating other types of visualizations or sounds with other data. Say a real time data stream from some scientific application, or some complex sounds from mouse input. Enter the Dynamic Deformations effort which is just barely starting and being stimulated by Aaron Walsh the chair of the Universal Media (UMEL) Working Group of the Web3D Consortium.

The UMEL group has recently produced a collection of textures for use by both developers and tool builders. At first glance the UMEL work sounds boring and ho hum...it's just a bunch of clip art right? Well yes, but it's also an infrastructure for media elements. In addition to freely available textures, there will be sounds and behaviors and more. The interesting aspect of the infrastructure is the support of URN's a robust naming scheme which allows graceful backup of pointers to URLs In addition as stated on the UMEL web pages:

"NOTE: Properly constructed Universal Media worlds are backwards compatible with standard VRML browsers. Universal Media can therefore be used without concern for browser support of URNs or Universal Media."
URNs or Universal Resource Names are a mechanism developed by the World Wide Web Consortium to create persistent reliable links. They are meant to solve the problem that happens when you click on a link and the browser responds with an "Error 404 Not Found". URNs have not become widespread on the Web because of difficulties with naming authorities however they are useful. In face If you build content dependent on textures whose origin is via a UMEL repository you can see how important it is to have a robust mechanism to solve the problem. Simply put the URNs work and reliable access really exists due to the existance of a half dozen (and growing) UMEL mirror sites. According to Aaron Walsh in a posting about the Dynamic Deformation work:
From a business perspective what we're now developing quickly opens up a 3rd party market for media producers (custom textures, sounds, object) and also custom dynamic deformation ("media filters"). It is probably easiest to compare our work to the Photoshop filter market, if only for a common language for this particular explanation. In this sense UMedia will ship with a basic library of filters that can be applied to textures, sounds, and 3D objects (whereas Photoshop has only 2D image filters). 3rd party vendors are free to sell their custom filters into the same market place, however; this is the ideal situation, actually. Again, although not perfect 1-to-1 comparison, Adobe Photoshop comes to mind -- Photoshop comes bundled with a small suite of image filters, yet the application framework supports 3rd party filters. KAI power tools, for example, is a good example of a 3rd party making profit setting custom Photoshop filters. And there are many more. Yet the Adobe Photoshop filter market is specific to images, and generally limited to the Photoshop market (and compatibles).

I anticipate a similar, perhaps even larger, market will develop for UMedia in the coming years. We're working through the Web3DC to provide core (base) libraries of media and filters free of charge (which are also freely redistributed by anyone). Tool and browser vendors can use our freely available open source to create a UMedia-savvy product in a few hours (literally, according to the Spazz3D team). We do not charge a licenses fee, and are not proprietary in any way. The name "Universal" is particularly important -- this is not limited to VRML in any way; it's about all forms of 3D, including traditional 3D, and even 2D applications (Web browsers, games, proprietary apps, and any other program that can benefit from UMedia can, and is encouraged, to use it).

Ahhh 3rd party filters for all sorts of dynamic effects to rock your VRML worlds. Works for me!

Finally it must be noted that the leader in jumping on this bandwagon is Spazz. The new Spazz3D product has support for UMEL textures built right in. When you go to apply a texture to a surface of any sort there is an additional button called UM which let's you, the author, browse the UMEL textures on your hard disk. It's integrated seamlessly and produces the urn: code necessary to take full advantage of the robust texture links. Lots of cool stuff happening, all we need now is more content!

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