3D Animation Workshop: Lesson 50: VRML--Platinum Speaks
Lesson 50 - VRML--Platinum Speaks - Part 2
Tony used to be the head honcho at Intervista, the VRML firm that developed the World View VRML browser that ships with Windows 95 and Microsoft Internet Explorer. But even prior to Platinum's acquisition of Intervista last June, Intervista had been looking into a business market for VRML, rather than the entertainment and advertising approach that had been Cosmo's focus. Intervista had developed tools for integrating VRML displays into standard business presentations created in Microsoft Word and Microsoft Excel. And now, while under the Platinum standard, Intervista is offering "World View for Developers" as a means of embedding interactive 3D viewing content into business applications built in Visual Basic, C++, and Java.
In Tony's opinion, the traditional (if there is such a notion) computer graphics industry didn't know what to do with real-time 3D, other than games. But when Andrew "Flip" Filipowski, the CEO of Platinum first saw a real-time 3D interface a couple of years ago, he knew it was what he wanted. He intuitively recognized the large role that real-time 3D could come to play in corporate business software--not for entertainment, but for organizing, visualizing and navigating the massive volume of information that constitutes today's business environment. Flip identified a market for VRML that, in his view, made real dollars and sense. The broad phrase "business visualization" is a good one in my view (though Tony gagged when I called it "biz viz.") In a press release, Flip calls it Process and Information Visualization Technology (PIVT). I still like biz viz.
So the new regime means not only new money (Platinum's projected revenues for 1998 are $1 billion), but a completely new perspective on where VRML and non-games-related real-time 3D may find success. The business visualization concept is an absolute blur in the minds of most people first approaching it, but Platinum has some basic borders mapped out. Data visualization essentially applies 3D graphics, animation and interactivity to graphing, and one can quickly imagine how useful such a presentation could be. Complex relations between many variables and mapped over time would typically require many separate pages in a 2D presentation. An animated 3D chart, viewable from all angles and adjustable for time or other input variables, could speed and improve decision making--just as the original spreadsheets revolutionized business twenty years ago. The examples I've seen thus far are interesting, but weak from a graphic arts perspective. Put some real graphics talent on the job and you'll have the kind of eye-popping presentations that will impress investors and close sales. This has got to be what Flip Filipowski is thinking.
In contrast to data visualization, product visualization is easily grasped. Models of physical objects are created and finished with materials and textures. Using scripted interactivity, the user can pop the hood and poke around the insides, even removing and replacing components. The applications here are in customer education, employee training, corporate communication, and the more sophisticated the product, the more this kind of application will be. An interesting example can be found on Platinum's Business Visualization Center Website.
Tony foresees the application of this kind of interactive product visualization into an e-commerce setting both for advertising and for sales of physical products. For example, a customer might configure a computer by assembling it on a 3D screen with virtual components. Once satisfied, the customer can buy the unit online, and then return to the same 3D site for service and upgrade. At the very least, you'd force everyone to have taken a virtual look inside their computer!
But the last piece of the puzzle has a real 21st century edge.
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Created: Sept. 28, 1998
Revised: Sept. 28, 1998