3D Animation Workshop: Lesson 95: From Sci-Fi to E-Commerce
Lesson 95 - From Sci-Fi to E-Commerce - Part 1
I'm no nobler than the next guy, so I have to acknowledge the kind of satisfaction that anyone who writes for a periodical medium feels when his or her predictions are confirmed by events. A few months back, I touted the vision of The New 3D Artist, an individual who recognizes the exploding significance of interactive realtime 3D graphics, and is prepared to mix programming with visual arts skills to exploit the emerging opportunities. I was therefore pleased to notice how this year's upcoming SIGGRAPH convention has been renamed as the "International Conference on Computer Graphics and Interactive Techniques" (emphasis mine, of course). Apart from the gratification of sounding prescient Â a special pleasure because I'm usually wrong about trends Â I'm thrilled that SIGGRAPH as an organization is helping to focus the attention of the 3D community on the interactive future. Let's identify the real opportunities in 3D so we can all make a living and continue to devote ourselves to computer graphics.
The current conception of interactive 3D graphics is heavily influenced by video games, where the techniques are the most highly developed and have achieved the greatest commercial success. But the earliest notions of interactive 3D emerged from the virtual reality community, and when realtime 3D was first imagined for the Internet, it carried a strong VR flavor. Indeed, the Virtual Reality Modeling Language (VRML) was the product of visionaries who, from the very start, dreamed of shared interactive "spaces" on the Web in which people could meet and interact through avatars - 3D models representing the participants. The Internet is, above all, a vehicle for communication, and 3D spaces might provide ideal meeting places.
The VRML debacle associated with the collapse of Cosmo Software in 1998, though seen as a disaster at the time, is now viewed as a healthy correction that cleared the ground for the emergence of the new range of initiatives collectively known as Web 3D. Web 3D, in all its faces, is driven largely by the desire to bring 3D graphics as it exists in other media to the Internet - whether for games, advertising, instruction or visualization. But one company is keeping both VRML and the original VRML vision alive through significant technological advancements.
Blaxxun Interactive is a German company with an important outpost in San Francisco. Blaxxun traces it roots to the earliest days of VRML, and the literary reference (Black Sun) to cyberpunk culture is significant. As a European company, Blaxxun was able to preserve its independence while Silicon Graphics' Cosmo division dominated the U.S. VRML scene. In the post-Cosmo era, Blaxxun has stuck with VRML and, more significantly, stuck with the vision of 3D on the Web as a vehicle for communication and community.
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Created: June 19, 2000
Revised: June 19, 2000