3D Animation Workshop: Lesson 83: 3D E-Commerce With MetaStream | 2
Lesson 83 - 3D E-Commerce With MetaStream - Part 2
MetaStreams.com is moving toward a business model that combines service and technology. In other words they want to sell companies both their delivery technology and the content development services. This is just what they've done with Sony's high-profile entry into direct selling through e-commerce. The new Sony sites feature MetaStream display of electronics products, and this content is well worth examining in detail. MetaStream requires a plug-in viewer, so when you first attempt to view the 3D content, you'll be asked to download and install the application. This will take a moment if you don't have a high-speed connection. But once you do, you'll see the selected product appear in a panel where it can be examined by rotating (dragging the mouse cursor) or zooming (by holding the control key while you drag). Check it out at Sony Vaio Direct or Sony Xtras Direct.
You'll quickly understand that the MetaStream vision of 3D for e-commerce is premised on the ability to examine high-quality 3D models of consumer products. I stress "high-quality" because low-poly approximations of such items are generally less satisfactory than photographs when examining a product for possible purchase. It hardly matters whether you can rotate or zoom in on a model if it is not a highly accurate representation of the item for sale. If you zoom in on the Sony camcorder, for example, you can definitely see small details rather well. At this point, the results are far from perfect, but they are certainly good enough to imagine where things will be in the near future. The association with Sony definitely helps to legitimize MetaStream and will certainly result in the downloading of a lot of plug-in viewers. I've always admired the business smarts at MetaCreations.
If we start with the core premise of delivering high-resolution models for examination, the larger MetaStream picture falls into place. First of all, you need lots of high-resolution models, perfectly texture-mapped to look exactly like the intended product. But modeling of this nature can get expensive. So one aspect of the MetaStream effort is to automate the model-creation process as much as possible. The company's MetaFlash technology was just one on many competing variations on an idea that was much in evidence at the SIGGRAPH convention last summer. A digital camera can be used to generate wireframe polygonal models that allign perfectly with texture maps also generated by the camera. I'm not going to pretend to understand how this marvel works, nor is it completely perfected from what I can see. But sooner or later, this method of generating accurate 3D models of existing physical objects will take over. I know that, at least for the time being, MetaStreams is employing professional modelers for this kind of content creation--guys like Barry Paul, a former student of mine at Cogswell College and a great guy.
So you've got a high-resolution (read "high polygon count") model. But such a model is large and therefore may take an unacceptably long time to download. Even more important, the model may be hard to handle interactively, and rotations and zooming will feel sluggish on older and less powerful processors. This is where the MetaStream technology gets very interesting.
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Created: Jan. 5, 2000
Revised: Jan. 5, 2000