VRML standards war may be at an end

An impromptu group of Virtual Reality Modeling Language (VRML) developers met last week at Siggraph in New Orleans to nail down some final details of the VRML 2.0 specification, which they hope will provide a standard for viewing and displaying 3D content on the World Wide Web.

An impromptu group of Virtual Reality Modeling Language (VRML) developers met last week at Siggraph in New Orleans to nail down some final details of the VRML 2.0 specification, which they hope will provide a standard for viewing and displaying 3D content on the World Wide Web.

"The specification war is over," says Karl Jacob, CEO of Dimension X, a San Francisco-based software company that recently licensed its browser technology to Microsoft.

In the coming months, the group will vote on extensions and enhancements to the VRML 2.0 specification. Apple, IBM and Paragraph International proposed last week a binary file format and compression technology to speed browsing and transmitting of graphics files over the Internet; a vote will be taken in September.

"Binary encoding will allow people to download and display VRML worlds 50 times faster than they can now," says Gregory Slayton, president of Paragraph.

Black Sun Interactive, Sony and Paragraph are proposing a standard, called Living Worlds, for making avatars (3D characters) common to all 3D environments. "Living Worlds will provide interoperability of avatars between everybody's systems," says Franz Buchenburger, president of Black Sun.

Also, Netscape announced at Siggraph plans to integrate Kinetix's 3D products into its Navigator browser. Kinetix, a division of Autodesk, is based in San Raphael, Calif.

Apple announced Version 1.5 of the QuickDraw 3D cross-platform set of APIs for rendering 3D graphics on Windows 95, Windows NT and MacOS. The product supports VRML 2.0 and Apple's new multiprocessing architecture. It is expected to ship in September.

Macromedia announced a partnership with Intervista Software to create a VRML 2.0 converter for its Extreme 3D authoring tool. Users of Extreme 3D can now port their Extreme 3D files to a VRML format on the Web. Extreme 3D runs on PC and Macintosh platforms and is available free to developers at http://www.macromedia.com. Information about Intervista is available at http://www.intervista.com.

Oz Interactive this week is beta testing its Oz Virtual multi-user VRML browser. The browser runs on a 14.4Kbit/s modem and Pentium PC, features customisation of avatars, text-based chat, a sound engine with MPEG audio compression and collision detection.

The company also announced Soft2vrml, which translates Softimage 3D models into VRML files to create 3D worlds on the Web. Both products are free at http://www.oz-inc.com; Oz Virtual will ship as a product later this US autumn.

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