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Web3D is often called virtual reality modeling. It provides a way to deliver interactive 3D objects and artificial worlds across the Internet. An example would be a virtual tour of a house that is for sale in another city. You use a virtual reality-enabled browser to "walk" through the house, pointing left, right, forward, and so on. The Web3D Consortium describes Web3D as follows:

Web3D blends the intuitive human sense of space and time with user interface interaction and programming language integration producing a truly new and exciting technology for the Internet. The evolution of the Net from command-line to 2D graphical to emergent 3D interfaces reflects ongoing, fundamental progress toward human-centered interface design-that is, toward a more immersive and responsive computer-mediated experience.

Open languages for programming and delivery Web3D include VRML (Virtual Reality Modeling Language), Java3D, and X3D.

VRML provides an interface that delivers virtual graphical three-dimensional worlds to users of Web browsers without consuming an exorbitant amount of bandwidth. VRML is based on an ASCII file format and three-dimensional modeling environments originally developed at Silicon Graphics. The key to VRML is that the descriptions of objects in the three-dimensional world (not the actual graphics) are transmitted to the user. This reduces the bandwidth requirements and makes virtual reality practical on the Web. Another key feature is scaling, which allows the user to move toward an object and watch that object grow in size. VRML provides information that describes an object, no matter what distance the viewer takes.

Although VRML is a coding language, you won't need to do much coding to create virtual worlds. Instead, you create virtual worlds using tools that are essentially three-dimensional painting and modeling packages. VRML files have the extension .wrl (world) and their own MIME type.

Copyright (c) 2001 Tom Sheldon and Big Sur Multimedia.
All rights reserved under Pan American and International copyright conventions.