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Topics in This Chapter

  • An overview of the Web3D Consortium, formerly the VRML Consortium, and the processes by which it develops Web3D technologies internally (such as VRML and X3D) and evaluates external 3D technologies (such as Java 3D and MPEG-4/BIFS) for possible "blessing" as Web3D technologies

  • A walk-through of the evolution of VRML, which is today an international standard known as VRML97

  • A discussion about Extensible 3D (X3D), the successor of VRML97 now under development by the Web3D Consortium and slated for delivery in the middle of 2000

  • An introduction to Java 3D, Sun's 3D API for Java, released in December 1998

  • An overview of MPEG-4/BIFS, a 3D scene encoding component of the MPEG-4 media encoding and delivery standard, due in 2000

Web3D is a general term used to describe a number of open, interoperable Internet-based 3D technologies that have been endorsed by the Web3D Consortium. Although Web3D as such is relatively new, its roots can be traced as far back as 1994-the year VRML was first conceived.

This chapter will describe in detail the term "Web3D," as well as the role the Web3D Consortium plays in deciding what technologies actually comprise it. Here you'll find that Web3D as defined by the consortium today consists of VRML and the forthcoming Extensible 3D (X3D) technology. However, this book also considers Java 3D and MPEG-4/BIFS to be forms of Web3D, even though they haven't been "blessed" by the Web3D Consortium as official Web3D technologies at the time of this writing.

This book shows you how to weave the only forms of Web3D available today, VRML and Java 3D, into your own Web pages, and it also prepares you for a future filled with X3D and MPEG-4/BIFS. This chapter provides a gentle introduction to VRML, X3D, Java 3D, and MPEG-4/BIFS, while subsequent chapters cover each in more detail.



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