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Preface

Preface

Welcome to Core Web3D, a programmer's introduction to 3D for the Internet. As a professional Web developer, you've probably heard about technologies such as VRML97, Java 3D, MPEG-4, and X3D. This book introduces you to each, in detail and from a programmer's perspective, so that you can weave any one (or all four) into your own Web sites.

If you've been waiting for the right opportunity to jump into Web3D, now is the time. For the first time in computer history, the major pieces of the puzzle are in shape to deliver interactive 3D to the average end user. Yesterday Web3D for the average computer user was impractical, if not entirely impossible. Today, for the first time ever, advances in key Web3D technologies, bandwidth, and sheer processing power give us the ability to deploy interactive 3D to our friends, users, and clients.

This book has been a long time in the making. Over six years, actually, as VRML emerged from concept in 1994 and re-emerges as X3D today. Until now, there was no market for Core Web3D simply because the infrastructure wasn't in place to deliver such content to the masses. Things have changed, and today's a different game entirely.

Just as images swept over the Web soon after text-only pages surfaced, followed by audio and video. 3D is now on fire. Major online retailers and entertainment sites have recently embraced Web3D as a strategic mechanism for attracting and holding onto customers, opening the floodgates that we've been battering at for years. By the year 2005 you won't be able to surf the Web without encountering 3D content anymore than you can surf today without bumping into audio and video: 3D is the natural progression of media for the Web. It is inescapable. Learn how to harness it.

The authors of Core Web3D are not passive observers in this revolution; we're on the front lines, every day. With no exception, each author and technical reviewer involved with this book is actively involved in the design, development, and advancement of Web3D technologies and standards. We share an unbridled passion for rich, interactive 3D experience delivered over the Internet and hope that our time in the R&D trenches and rides atop commercial Web3D ventures will be of value and interest to you as you lead the charge for Web3D on your own virtual ground.

Although we would have preferred to provide you with in-depth coverage of every Web3D technology now available, a physical limit to the number of pages we could use in this book puts a practical block on how much we would write about. It's impossible to cover everything. We choose, instead, to focus on four key Web3D technologies: VRML97, Java 3D, MPEG-4, and X3D. And, since it's not possible to cover these four technologies exhaustively in one book, we didn't try. Instead, Core Web3D is the lead book in a forthcoming series of Web3D books—Core Java 3D, Core MPEG-4, and Core X3D are soon to follow.

What you have in Core Web3D is a technical introduction, from a professional programmer's perspective, of each. In this book you'll learn how these four technologies are similar and how they differ. You'll program in each, as you explore the fundamental concepts and major features of each. And, finally, you'll learn how to customize existing Web3D content for your own purposes, so that you can get a jump on developing professional quality 3D for your own Web site. We hope you enjoy the ride as much as we do.

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