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WorldInfo - VRML News
by Bernie Roehl, VRMLSite News Editor

PROTO Announcements
This month has seen a number of announcements, most of them from COMDEX.

Integrated Data Systems

IDS Demonstrates VRML 2.0 Support
Integrated Data Systems used COMDEX as an opportunity to show off their upcoming VRML 2.0 products. V-Realm Browser and V-Realm Builder claim to offer "Full VRML 2.0 support", including features such as Extrusion and ElevationGrid which many browsers and authoring tools have not yet implemented.

Among the more powerful features of the authoring tool are polygon reduction (which allows models with high polygon counts to be reduced to a more manageable size for real-time rendering) and detailed vertex/face editing. Both products are expected to ship in January, with beta versions available before then.

PC Magazine named V-Realm Builder an "Editors' Choice" in its November 5th issue. V-Realm Builder 1.1 is available at major retail outlets for a street price of $229. It may also be purchased directly through IDS by calling (912) 236-4374. Complete product information and technical support is available on IDS' Web site. All registered users of version 1.0 can upgrade to 1.1 at no charge. Registered users also have access to telephone and e-mail support for one year from the date of purchase.

3dlabs Issues IPO, Makes Announcements
3dlabs, a leading manufacturer of 3D accelearation chips, recently issued a flurry of press releases timed to coincide with their Initial Public Offering of 2.5 million shares.


Among the announcements is the fact that the firm's PERMEDIA accelerator now boasts "high performance" support for Microsoft's Direct3D API and upcoming support for OpenGL. Since most VRML browsers are likely to use either Direct3D or OpenGL as their rendering engine, the widespread availability of such 3D accelerators will allow larger and more complex worlds to be rendered in real time. The chipset claims 800K polygons per second and 42 million bilinear texture-mapped pixels per second. Boards using the PERMEDIA are expected to retail for under $200.


VRCreator Impresses Crowds at COMDEX
The still-unreleased VRCreator package was also on display at COMDEX. Widely regarded as one of the more powerful of the upcoming VRML authoring tools, the software from Chicago-based VREAM is now scheduled to ship in January of 1997.

The $99 authoring environment will come bundled with over 1000 models from the Viewpoint Datalabs catalog, as well as a modeler and the ability to import objects created in other formats such as 3D Studio, Lightwave and Caligari Truespace. A "Floor Plan Editor" is designed to make life easier for users who are building interior spaces.

Open Community proposal
Living Worlds proposal

Open Community Proposal Unveiled
MERL (Mitsubishi Electric Research Labs), in collaboration with Chaco Communications and Velocity, Inc, have proposed an API for the creation of multi-user virtual worlds. The proposal, which was originally released under the name "Universal Worlds", has now been renamed Open Community in order to avoid confusion with the Living Worlds proposal or the Universal Avatars initiative.

Open Community is designed as a Java class library that provides access to a shared world database for the creation of virtual environments. Based on MERL's distributed-world technology (called SPLINE), the system offers support for behavior and sound as well as visual appearance.

The Open Community proposal met with widespread interest. Robert Rockwell, CTO of Black Sun, Inc, is quoted as saying "we were delighted to discover how neatly the Open Community design work dovetails into Living Worlds' proposed VRML interfaces". It's expected that the combination of Open Community and Living Worlds will provide a suitable infrastructure for a variety of multi-user applications.


Datapath Demonstrates Realimation 4.1
British software company Datapath used COMDEX to demonstrate the 4.1 version of Realimation, their 3D authoring package. Designed for creating interactive 3D content, Realimation supports such features as terrain following and level-of-detail processing. The package is able to export to VRML.

Template Graphics Software

TGS Shows 3Space Publisher at COMDEX
Another company showing new VRML software was Template Graphics Software, one of the early pioneers in the VRML arena. Their 3Space Publisher software is scheduled to ship late this year, and will be bundled with 500 3D models and textures. Although clearly aimed at users wishing to create non-realtime 3D content (in the form of animated GIFs or Renderman output), 3Space has support for VRML export built-in.

OZ Interactive

OZ Acquires Sound Company
Iceland-based OZ Interactive recently announced that they have acquired Digital Sound Productions, a research company specializing in sound for interactive media. "We're more than just a technology company," says Gudjon Mar Gudjonsson, CEO of OZ Interactive, "we're a collection of musicians, artists, philosophers and leading thinkers". The details of how DSP's research will be integrated into the OZ system are unclear, but the union of the high-quality rendering of OZ with the digital sound technology of Digital Sound Productions should be bear fruit within a few months.

VRML 97 Plans are moving ahead for the second annual VRML symposium, to be held in Monterey California in February of next year. The symposium is widely regarded as the most significant VRML event of the year, and represents an opportunity for developers and world-builders to compare notes and discuss the various standardization efforts under way.

VRML 97 Symposium

The focus of the conference is highly technical, with the presentation of research papers and full-day tutorial being the centerpiece. Nevertheless, it's anticipated that VRML 97 will be well-attended by non-technical people as well. "VRML 97 is the future of 3D on the World Wide Web," says VRML 97 chair Don Brutzman.

Among the more important presentations will be the unveiling of the proposed binary format for VRML, which will make it possible to create more compact worlds that download faster. There is also expected to be a great deal of interest in multi-user online virtual worlds.

Of the non-technical topics, the most interesting is likely to be the recently-formed "VRML Consortium", a body made up of corporate and academic organizations that is expected to oversee the future development of the VRML standard.

Some confusion has been expressed over the fact that there was no "VRML 96". The original VRML 95 conference was held at the end of 1995, and VRML 96 had originally been scheduled for late this year. A decision was made to put the conference off for two months in order to give developers more time to prepare papers and courses for the conference, and so the second annual event officially became "VRML 97" rather than "VRML 96".

Barry Fox of Intervista married Deanna Ewers in Rome.
Moses Ma formed Internet Game Inc.
Bernie Roehl is now News Editor of VRMLSite Magazine

Please send all news items, event announcement and promotion/job changes, etc. to Bernie Roehl, VRMLSite News Editor

Bernie Roehl is a software developer based at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada. He is probably best known in VR circles for REND386 and AVRIL, free VR software packages that are still in widespread use.

Bernie is also the author of two books on VR, "Virtual Reality Creations" and "Playing God: Creating Virtual Worlds", and he recently co-authored Que's "Special Edition: Using VRML". He is currently writing for VR News, CyberEdge Journal and VRMLSite and has previously written for VR World and VR Special Report. Bernie is also a popular speaker on VR and VRML at various conferences throughout the year. In the months ahead, you'll be able to find Bernie speaking at a number of conferences.

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