What Do You want Web3D to Become?

Dateline: 5/24/00

With the resurgence of loads of proprietary Web3D and the work on X3D, where do you think Web3D should be going?

This a little bit of an experimental article. There is a thread running on the forum now asking this question? Please put in your thoughts in the Where do you want Web3D to go thread.

As far as I'm concerned there are a few areas clearly in need of work as far as X3D and VRML200x goes. It has been three years, at least, that people have been crying for the need to incorporate streaming audio and geometry. Can we say "Irish Space" and long form storytelling.

The standards community is woefully slow which has forced all the Web3D vendors to come up with their own solutions. For audio blaxxun's Contact and ParallelGraphics Cortona support RealMedia Audio and Video. Flatland's Rover also supports RealMedia Audio and Video. Cortona also supports the use of Macromedia's Flash as a MovieTexture, a very cool capability. None of these are part of VRML or the forthcoming X3D or VRML200x.

On the one hand the desire to create an open standard which does not point to proprietary IP (intellectual property) encumbered technologies is very reasonable. Standard are legal documents and it doesn't usually make sense to mandate the use of a proprietary technology buried in the standard. In the mean time the technological world is marching on leaving the standards community in the dust. The balance here is to move the standard forward fast enough to help enable the industry, before it simply walks away. The open nature of VRML is vital and it is the responsibility of the Web3D Consortium the sheppard of the VRML standard to ensure that its work remains relevant. The W3D needs to put more effort looking at how to reasonably deal with important proprietary systems.

Another important standards effort the work of the MPEG community is incorporating VRML for its definition of 3D scenes (yes the new MPEG4 will have data structures for 3D). Again the Web3D Consortium seems to be hamstrung over the IP issues in MPEG4. The existing policy of the W3D is to include no proprietary technologies, not unreasonable at first glance. Keep in mind that MPEG's IP issues are very complex and no one organization speaks for all these issues, primarily patent issues.

MPEG4 contains robust streaming technology, there should be a way to work with it. The W3D and the MPEG community is in contact and liaisons exist so all hope is not lost. MPEG4 could very well turn out to be the next big thing for 3D, it would be "nice" if VRML could take advantage of MPEG's strengths.

Obviously one way you can make a difference is to particupate in the Web3D Consortium's various working groups. Join if you wish (I did) or not, but make your voice heard. New individual "professional" memberships are available now.

Talk back! Come to the forum and let us all know what you think. Everyone's opinions are welcome.

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