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Chapter 1. WHY BOTHER?

Topics in This Chapter

  • Why 3D was unable to reach the mass of Web users before today

  • Unveiling key Web3D technologies (VRML, X3D, Java 3D, and MPEG-4/BIFS) and the Web3D Consortium

  • An overview of yesterday's roadblocks: bandwidth, platform, and authoring-tool limitations

  • Exploring how Web3D facilitates product and data visualization, eCommerce and business applications, entertainment, Web page enhancement, and news and advertisement enhancement

  • A tour of the Web3D future by way of VRML sites available today

3D is difficult. Extremely difficult. Thinking and working in three dimensions is natural for human beings; we do it every moment of every day. Our brains are wired for three dimensions because our world is made up of three dimensions: height, width, and depth. But "3D"—the field of computer science that deals expressly with creating, manipulating, and navigating computer content in three dimensions—is difficult. Extremely difficult.

It should come as no surprise, then, that Web3D—the distribution and navigation of 3D content over the World Wide Web—is also difficult. In fact, it's more technologically challenging than traditional 3D, owing to the high bandwidth required to smoothly deliver realistic 3D content through the Internet. And, once such content arrives at the desktop, an astonishing amount of computing power is required to interact with it. As a result, compelling Web3D content was practically impossible for the average end user to experience before today. Which raises the question: Why bother?

To understand the answer, you must first understand what Web3D actually is. The term "Web3D," as used throughout this book, didn't even exist before the end of 1998, even though many of the technologies it describes have been around in one form or another for several years. Web3D does not describe a specific technology, nor is it merely a way to deliver 3D content over the World Wide Web. Finally, Web3D is not solely about content that just looks 3D to the eye—a visual trick that any experienced graphics artist can produce with Adobe Photoshop by simply adding the appearance of depth to an image; Web3D goes much further than that.

So what's Web3D all about, and why should you care?



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