I recently got a chance to try Viewpoint's LiveART98 product, and it is wayyyy cool. First a note of warning, this has nothing whatsoever to do with VRML. However it is relevant as an example of a simple - and I emphasize simple - way of using 3D computer graphics for the average Joe and Jane computer user.
So what is LiveArt? It's a collection of 3D clip art that you can easily incorporate into your MSWord or PowerPoint documents. The cool part however is that unlike other 3D clip art packages you can specify almost 60 different styles for rendering the clip art. The objects which actually consisting of a 3D model (which you can not export) can be exported as images in either TIFF, BMP, JPEG or PNG formats. Some of the models even contain animations however you could not export as an animated GIF which was a bit disappointing. The animations could only be used in PowerPoint as an embedded object.
All of these skulls are the same object in the same position just rendered with a different style.
The technology of dynamic rendering is called "LiveStyles" and was originally developed by a company called ThinkFish which has joined the ViewPoint folks.
Of course since they are 3D you can rotate and light them from different directions.
To use LiveArt you can either run a separate application called LiveArt SketchPad or the OLE extension of LiveArt that has magically been installed into Word or PowerPoint. A little thumbtack icon appears alongside all those other incomprehensible MS icons from which you can launch LiveArt.
The liveart interface consists primarily of a small dialog to enter a keyword and it present you with a menu of "relevant" clip-art items that it has with that keyword. You can also simply go through a hierarchical menu list of all the clip art. The images in this article happen to come from an additional add-on collection of clip art for Halloween (how timely).
There are clip art categories like Architecture, Transportation, Ideas, Emotions and more. One interesting collection of clip art is a collection of finger spelling hands. The great thing about LiveArt is it's simplicity and ease of use. It gives the user a few options, rotation and styles and let's you export easily for incorporation into your documents. It's exactly the type of 3D application needed to bring more 3D to the desktop. Focus on Web3D gives LiveArt a big two thumbs up.
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