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Chapter 20. WHY X3D? > In the Right Place at the Wrong Time

In the Right Place at the Wrong Time

A significant number of the early VRML specification designers, as well as VRML browser and modeler makers, had SGI workstations on their desk-tops. Consequently, their vision of what was possible with computerized 3D was in large part driven by the ample processing power at their fingertips. Not surprisingly, many of these high-powered notions of 3D went straight into the VRML specification.

Until recently, however, the average home PC lacked the CPU horse-power and 3D graphics acceleration necessary to bring rich VRML worlds to life (Chapter 1, "Why Bother?" ). In many respects, VRML's graphics capabilities were simply too good for the computer in the average home at the end of 1997. Understanding this fundamental gap between VRML's capabilities and those of the average home computer, VRML architect Rikk Carey posted what we see in Table 20.1 to the www-vrml email list some time ago. VRML's color and lighting model, collision-detection capabilities, atmospheric effects, texturing, animation, and a virtually unlimited number of objects and polygons all add up to CPU cycles. Although high-end graphics workstations at the time were up to the task, home computers were not. VRML browsers running on ordinary PCs couldn't make it into the "good enough" frame rate. Many content developers had to struggle just to make some of their worlds fast enough to be considered "unusable."


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