Adobe Atmosphere, First Impressions
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Adobe Atmosphere
Adobe Atmosphere multiuser world embedded in the Internet Explorer browser.

Dateline: April 11, 2001

One of the big pieces of news this past month was the introduction of Adobe's Atmosphere signaling the entrance of this publishing behemoth to the wonderful world of Web3D. Technically the jury is still out. Prospects do look quite promising though. Let's look at the product release a little more closely.

There are actually three major pieces of software. First the viewer or browser (Atmosphere Browser), second the authoring tool (Atmosphere Builder), and third the server to host the multiuser environment (Adobe Community Server).

First let's talk about the server, as I have the least information about it. In the Atmosphere FAQ it says: "Atmosphere Community Server, an Adobe sponsored chat server that enables users to communicate with one another using a text-based interface in 3D worlds created in Atmosphere. During the Public Beta, Adobe will provide a URL so that Adobe Atmosphere Builder users can create worlds that are community enabled."

In talking with Michael Kaplan the product manager for Adobe, he stated that the server will also be given away free! I was very pleasantly surprised, but immediatly had the question, how is Adobe going to make money from this stuff? Kaplan said that Adobe will be offering a "professional" version of Atmosphere Builder for which they will charge. He also went on to say however that the difference between the professional version and the free version of Builder will be very small. The free version of Atmosphere Builder won't be a damaged product it just won't have the latest feature and you won't get support for it. I find this a fairly astounding scenario. All of the components, the Browser, the Builder and the Server are free and Adobe will only make money from the pro/supported version of the Builders. These guys have kanhunas!

Let's look at the browser from a technical point of view a bit. The actual display of the 3D world is based on software Adobe aquired a year or two ago from a company called Attitude 3D. Atmosphere is the rebirth of that software (and people, Kaplan used to be with Attitude). It's a decent 3D renderer but with nothing particularly special about it. More interestingly is the fact that in addition to the regular Atmosphere renderer, a second renderer is included, the Viewpoint renderer. Viewpoint which Adobe has invested in, has a very high quality renderer that is the best in the Web for the display and manipulation of 3D products. It is possible to import a Viewpoint object into an Atmosphere world and have that object rendered using the high quality Viewpoint renderer. The Viewpoint object is composited with the Attidude renderer to create a unified world. A nice example of this is the ability of Poser to export Viewpoint objects (the scantily clad avatar in the illustration) which is then imported into the Atmosphere environment. You can, using JavaScript get access to and manipulate the scene graph for all the objects whether rendered using the Viewpoint renderer or the Attitude renderer. It's very cool that they didn't try to combine the two renderers in a stupid way using layers or that sort of thing which would have been the easy way out.

Next week we'll take a look at the Atmosphere Builder to see how easy, or not, it is the create these worlds.

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