VRML, Ready for Prime Time

Dateline: 5/18/98
So there I was watching TV. Happened to be a commercial for "From the Earth to the Moon" and of course HBO was flashing through some parts of their web site, and there it was the VRML Apollo flight! You can "fly" the lunar excursion module with a little VRML simulator and watch a series of VRML episodes that support the movie.

Continuing the space theme MSNBC offers us a wonderful (due to Alan Taylor's hard work) view of the International Space Station. This VRML world is a model of the "right" way to do a large complicated object and how to present it to the public. There is a version which takes you on a tour, and an unguided version so you can wander around on your own. The robot art on the ISS functions. We can look at the ISS from a variety of well placed viewpoint...virtual "Kodak Picture Places". The ISS is a collaboration of several countries and I particularly like the way you can view the section of the ISS being built by each country, in one portion of the world. I actually leaned a lot about the ISS, a true testament to the utility of the world.

Well believe it or not there is another DIFFERENT VRML model of the ISS, this one is at CNN Interactive. When I saw the link I figured it was some deal that CNN had with MSNBC but after I looked at it and played with it, it was clearly different. Most amusing. This ISS is not as refined as the MSNBC model but it does provide more technical info about the ISS and moving the cursor over the different sections of the ISS displays a textual name that pops up in the world.

CNN Interactive seems to have a more significant commitment to VRML than the other sites with a separate directory with a variety of VRML worlds. These include the Hubble space telescope, a VRML visualization of a hurricane, the Mars Global Surveyor and more.

For a more down-to-earth VRLM sampling check out CBS Sportsline's 3D Baseball.It let's you wander around a baseball stadium, finding out current scores and chatting with other spectators. You can get a blimps eye view of the whole scene and tour the stadium.
Finally no article about VRML and the mass media would be complete without Godzilla. VRML has been used for quite a while in support of movies primarily with the work of the folks at Hollyworlds. Who can forget, Xena, Spawn and the recently released Lost in Space (you can find them all at the Hollyworlds site). The VRML Godzilla site is however the work of the folks at Sony Imageworks and is a VRML chat.

So with all these major mass media works actually "out there" do YOU think VRML is real or just a passing fad? The important aspect of almost all these sites is that they are NOT pushing VRML, in fact VRML is barely mentioned, it's the content. Content is king.

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