VRML is the newly developed language for describing multi-user, interactive simulations - virtual worlds networked via the global Internet and hyperlinked within the World Wide Web. The drive to adopt VRML on the Net has been led by Mark Pesce, who convinced attendees of the First International Conference on the World Wide Web of the need for a common language to specify 3D scene description and WWW hyperlinks. The Pesce-led industry group developed a set of requirements and began a search for technologies that could be adapted to suit those needs.
The consensus focused on the Open Inventor ASCII file format from Silicon Graphics. This format supports complete descriptions of 3D scenes with polygonal rendered objects, lighting, materials, ambient properties, and realism effects. Extensions to the Inventor file format to support networking were developed as the basis of VRML. SGI has announced that the format is available for use in the open market, and has contributed a file format parser to public domain to support VRML viewer development
You can expect VRML to be integrated with the next generation of Web browsers, and downloadable from the usual sites. The first developer tools should be available from Template Graphic Software by the time this issue is in print, however we're told that this version will not support the level of interactivity that is ultimately planned. Look for full support of arbitrary interactive behaviors to be in the second revision of the spec, targeted for December 1995.
The list of companies participating in or endorsing the development of VRML includes Silicon Graphics, Template Graphic Software, Netscape, DEC, NEC, and more even as we go to press. That the adoption of VRML will change the face of the Net is a given.
WaxWeb 2.0 (http://bug.village.virginia.edu)
By far. the most ambitious (and certainly the biggest) of the VRML developed pro|ects is the latest incarnation of the groundbreaking electronic cinema feature 'Wax or the discovery of television among the bees." Gnematographer David Blair created the first full-length electronic feature film in 1 991 Over the last eight months, in collaboration with programmer Tom Meyer, of the Brown University Graphics Lab. Blair has recreated the story to be the first interactive intercommunicative feature film on the World Wide Web.
It is the largest hypermedia document on the Web, and is the first network-distributed narrative to offer realtime 3D navigation through a story It contains 3,000 Web pages, approximately 25 000 hyperlinks, 85 minutes of digital video (the entire feature film) 5,000 color stills soundtracks in English, French, German, and Japanese plus more than 250 3D VRML scenes, filled with thousands of hyperlinked parts (every part of every object in the virlual world is an active burton triggering access to other 3D scenes, to the movie, to pictures, or to hypertext)
Apparently Blair and Meyer didn't think those challenges sufficient, so they've enabled network users of WaxWeb 2.0 to add their own publicly visible hypertext, pictures, audio, video, and hyperlinked VRML All objects in the VRML database have their hyperlinks changed dynamically, on-the fly, based on user-interaction (whew!). You want more? In the near future they expect to have synthetically created scenes by recombining internal elements with user-added objects into a dynamic, 3D interactive story, on the Net. Mr. Gibson, what hast thou wrought?