Browser-based and plug-in-less: 2 different levels of accessibility in web3D.

Web3D has made huge progress recently in terms of accessibility! Just a few years ago, the only available 3D Internet applications were games and a few virtual worlds like Second Life, that require installation of “thick” software components, each with their own proprietary user interfaces.

The power of the web no longer has to be proven. The web architecture has become one of the strongest standards in the history of technology, together with the underlying IP infrastructure architecture which has been so open and robust that it enabled the integration of  other networks like voice, and now mobile networks. Reasons for the strength of the web standard are its openness, its thinness, its simplicity, and the hyperlink concept enabling navigation.

This is why web3D developers are looking for open, thin, simple 3D spaces that can be hyperlinked to each other and customized with standard web tools such as html, javascript and PHP, and consequently are looking for browser-based technologies to satisfy these criteria.

In the past few months several browser-based technologies have been either newly introduced or repackaged from older technologies. This is good progress, as it standardizes the user interface, but it’s not enough, especially if the technology still requires the user to download and install proprietary software, which can sometimes be 50MB or more. In most cases, for more advanced tools and applications, the installation of an Active-X control is required. Some installation processes are presented particularly well, and for a standalone Windows user with Internet Explorer the installation process can be smooth, however, the reality is that the proprietary software (i.e., plug-in) has been installed on the computer for good! This type of installation is a problem in most business environments where it is common for IT managers in mid-size or large corporations to prevent the installation of software from external sources for obvious reasons (i.e., security, reliability, quality. etc.). Thus, since offices cannot access 3D worlds and applications based on technologies that require the installation of proprietary software, they do not satisfy the need for widespread accessibility that is a requirement for much wider adoption of web3D. Moreover, Active-X plug-ins do not support Mac or Linux machines whose market shares are growing every day.

Browser based technologies are to be considered in two categories:


* Those requiring installation of a plug-in, with the following issues:
    o Difficulty installing in a corporate environment due to IT policies and firewall incompatibilities
    o Rarely cross-platform
    o Need for the end-user’s action for regular update of the application
    o Less market penetration due to the end-user’s lack of trust to unknown plug-ins
Those thin “plug-in-less” technologies enabling web-native applications that are fully compliant with standard web navigation. These technologies are necessarily based on one of the following underlying web technologies:
    o Flash: not offering any immersive walkthrough possibility
    o Silverlight: seems promising, although likely not ready for prime time for quite a while, as well as not being multi-platform
    o Java: The only viable technology available , enabling plug-in-less web3D

3DXplorer is one of the rare technologies from this last category that is available today, offering immersive 3D worlds, web sites and applications all in a browser-based and plug-in-less environment, enabling web3D in the exact same architecture as the web itself.

Using “render-to-texture” & “texture baking” techniques

 

In order to enhance the realism of a scene, very often, we just need to improve lighting conditions and add shadows and other lighting effects. Obviously, in this fiend, real time engines are not supposed to go as far as most off-line rendering calculations. But sometimes, we may be able to use a pre-rendered scene inside 3DXplorer for a real time visualization.

This type of scenes can simply be generated by using “render to texture” or “texture baking” features in 3DSMax or in Maya.

These features enable 3DXPlorer designers to integrate the lighting and the shadows directly into texture files. By leaving the texture files of such a scene in the same folder than the file to be imported, they will be imported inside 3DXplorer together with the scene.

Once the scene is in 3DXPlorer, the texture materials property has to be set to “self illumination” in order to avoid rendering them twice.

Example: The scene called “Show-room” under “buildings” in the 3DXplorer objects library has some pre-rendered textures.

New Java for Mac users

Those Mac users under Leopard Mac OS X 10.5, are invited to update their Java machine by downloading the latest release from Apple here:

http://www.apple.com/downloads/macosx/apple/application_updates/javaformacosx105update1.html

To read more about this release:

http://docs.info.apple.com/article.html?artnum=307403

 

The US Congress wades into virtual worlds

The US congress is particularly interested in virtual worlds.© Rik Panganiban / Rik Riel

Last Tuesday, the US congress experienced its first  Congressional hearing session held simultaneously in real and in a virtual world. Congressmen represented by avatars, were interested in what can be done within virtual worlds, the importance of the impact on the economy and the possible risks including those on security.

The hearing was conducted by the Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet (a subcommittee of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce).

This was not a typical Capitol Hill hearing. TV monitors carried the session, but one screen showed the virtual session streaming in real time, complete with avatars providing some text-chat play by play, such as: “There’s another softball question.”

Congressmen noticed a range of actions informed by vision and clarity of purpose. One of the most needed actions from the Congress is programs that will spur the technical development of the 3D Internet.

Watch the full video here.

Read the Washington Post article here.

Picture Copyright © Rik Panganiban / Rik Riel

3DXplorer V3.00.12 now online

The new version, online since this week-end, brings the following new features:

  • Faster loading for scenes and objects especially those with textures.
  • Increased performance resulting in smoother animation for large scenes (hit-testing improved). This is discernable when manipulating high-poly objects.
  • A better 3DS file importer.
  • Faster applet download at startup
  • Some cosmetic improvements
  • Some bug corrections including one for the music player (in some cases, you need to re-add your stereo to be able to listen to your playlist)
  • “Lock/Unlock” object feature, to avoid moving “big” objects while moving small objects inside them.

As usual, to use the new release, you don’t need any action (as far as you have kept your project under “Last Release” status, which is the one by default on all accounts).

Enjoy it!

3DXplorer V3 beta launched !

The past 2 weeks were an exciting busy period for the Altadyn team as we opened the site to public and  launched the product to the press.

We also prepared and released a video, available on YouTube which presents the technology.

We are pretty much satisfied with the feedback so far, reading the comments from experts and articles from the journalists.

We invite you to follow the above links if you have not already done so.

The launch of V3 beta is also the end of the “private beta” period. We would like to once again thank all our private beta users for their contribution, feedback and time.

Thank you!

Preparing & optimizing 3D models for 3DXplorer

Here’s a few technical tips to know in order to prepare and optimize your 3D models before importing them into 3DXPlorer:

Modeling of all kind of objects:

  • Use only polygonal geometry.
  • Use point light sources (omni). Color and constant attenuation are supported.
  • Use Blinn  and Lambert materials.
  • Diffuse and specular colors are supported, as well as specular strength and highlight power. 3DXplorer’s material self illumination is binary, it should be 0 or 100.
  • Double-sided materials are supported.
  • 3DXplorer matches automatically the ground (Z=0), the plane surface on which visitors will move, as being the lowest surface in the scene. As a consequence, you should place your ground in the modeler at Z=0, and have no geometry under the ground.
  • 2 different materials or objects should have 2 different “names”.

Modeling of scenes:

On top of the above tips to know for all kind of objects, please consider the following tips for scenes in particular:

  • At least one light source should be placed in the scene to be able to see it.
  • To make sure your visitors will experience high performance of real time navigation, we recommend all scenes to be optimized and stay with as lowest number of polygons as possible. In order to give you a hint, the featured web sites have each less than 100.000 polygones (including all objects inside).

Bug reporting

During the beta period, you may see issues that we would love to know about. Very often the content of the Java console can be helpful. In case of a hang-up/freeze or just any issue, open the Java console accessible from the Java icon on the lower right part of your computer, copy all the content, paste it into an e-mail and send it to this e-mail address: “technical-support” at 3dxplorer.com .

                                                         click to enlarge 3dx2.jpg

This will help us resolve your issues in a more timely manner.

Thank You!

Kick off the blog!

3DXplorer has now its own Blog. We are going to use it as an additional place to update you with the latest news regarding 3DXplorer, and also to receive some of your comments.

On December 5th, 2007 we opened the Private Beta website of 3DXplorer V3, with a limited number of users.

Since then we are receiving some feedbacks from the participants to the private beta and we have enhanced both the content and some functions of the tool.

Last week, we added a new “building” actually a living room, and some new furniture and accessories to decorate inside, such as a new lamp. Also a few minor bugs have been detected and resolved.

%d bloggers like this: