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The Most Influential People in VRML

by John Gluck

People outside of the VRML community are beginning to recognize what we already know; that VRML is not simply a de facto standard, but rather a flexible language suited to the future of 3D representation on the Internet.

Despite controversies and differences in opinions in its ranks, the VRML community has been able to evolve both quickly and more efficiently than almost any other body, legislative or otherwise, in cyberspace. This growth is due in part to the dynamic individuals in VRML, people of action who make decisions quickly and gather consensus. It is an example that many other political bodies would do well to follow.

Our community is privileged to have some of the most, dynamic, intelligent, and enterprising individuals in the field of technology. This is a tribute to those personalities, the people without whom this language would be nothing more than just another option among many, like so many other file formats in existence today.

Certainly, many people on this list will have colleagues, employees, and superiors to whom they can credit with their nomination. In later issues, we will focus on more specific topics: top techies, top CEOs, top artists, top content developers, etc.

Mike McCue

McCue was drawn to VRML as a means to implement 3D user interface technologies and did not set out to specifically to browser. But the company he founded, Paper Software, authored WebFX--the first VRML browser capable of plugging in to the Netscape browser. Netscape acquired the company, along with McCue, and WebFX became Live3D, one of the most popular VRML plugins on the market today.

As Director of Client Technology at Netscape, McCue brought Netscape into the fold, leading them to join the VRML community in backing the Moving Worlds Proposal for the new VRML Spec. He is backed by a team that consists of well- respected members of the VRML community, including Caroline Trczinski, Greg Scallan and Jim Dunn.

Mike is also known for the way he says, "Great!"

Mark Pesce

No list of this nature would be legitimate without a credit to Mark Pesce. Ever since reading Neuromancer, he was fascinated with three dimensional representations of networks. His visions came to fruition when, in 1993, he develop a system analogous to a three-dimensional Domain Name Server. Along with Tony Parisi, he created a browser that allowed people to see this system and VRML was born.

Pesce is born front man. He is unabashedly flamboyant and prone to giving passionate rants garnished by superb use of the English language. Openly homosexual and spiritual, he is a welcome addition to the hall of hopelessly geeky figureheads in the business today.

Pesce is a testimony to the triumph of intelligence and creativity. Thrown out of MIT in the mid-eighties, he worked in various network jobs until implementing VRML. He now dedicates his time to evangelizing; he has published two books to date and several articles, and criss-crosses the country giving lectures on the importance of VRML.

Pesce is also involved in organizing the VRML Consortium, the group that will replace the VRML Architecture Group (VAG), of which he is a member. He continues to author books on the subject ov VRML. Pesce has also been quite an evangelist; many of the top people in the industry became involved in VRML as a consequence of meeting Pesce and being converted by him.

Gavin Bell

Bell made his imprint in the VRML world through his employ at SGI, where he led the Moving Worlds proposal over recent months, supervising it's growth into the VRML 2.0 spec. But before there was VRML 2.0, there was VRML 1.0, and Bell wrote the proposal that turned into the VRML 1.0 spec.

Bell has been an important influence in almost every step of VRML's development. He has authored and co-authored many papers on the subject and is recognized as one of the field's top authorities.

Rikk Carey

Carey helped build the Open Inventor 3D Toolkit before becoming one of the participants, with Gavin Bell, in a now infamous sushi lunch that was the catalyst for SGI's dabblings in VRML. As Director of Engineering, Carey allowed SGI's VRML 1.0 proposal to be released openly to the VRML community and the Internet.

Carey went on to co-author the Moving Worlds proposal that became VRML 2.0.

Carey co-founded the VRML architecture group with Mark Pesce and is currently a member. He formalized the agreement with the International Organization of Standards (ISO) to accept VRML as an official `working draft' for ISO/IEC 14472. He is one of the many people involved in organizing the VRML Consortium, a non-profit organization dedicated to managing the future of VRML.

He is presently still at work on the VRML specification and is preparing for the ISO process.

Jan Hardenbergh (YON)

Formerly at Oki, Hardenbergh has just joined the Netscape team. He has been doing 3D graphics since he got out of Brandeis in 1980. As for being on the VRML Architecture Group, Hardenbergh says this: "(It's) like playing baseball, except everyone can be a pitcher. There is no action, and then someone or thing puts the ball in play and boom, we do the right thing. It is a mystery, an honor and a frustration, all at the same time." Hardenbergh is the author of the VRML FAQ.

Tony Parisi

VRML wouldn't be VRML without Tony Parisi. When he moved to San Francisco, he met Mark Pesce and wrote the first VRML browser --Labyrinth.

Parisi founded Intervista in 1995 and developed WorldView, the first VRML browser for the PC. He is also a member of the VAG.

Under Parisi's supervision as Chief Technical Officer, Intervista is working on releasing tools that will help webmasters create and maintain their 3-D sites. They are also working with Macromedia to meld VRML and interactive animation.

Working with Parisi at Intervista are Brian Blau, who is also a member of the VAG, and Barb Singer, one of the resident technical experts.

Tom Meyer

With his partner, David Blair, Tom Meyer spent two years developing WAXweb, a hypermedia web version of the film "WAX, or the discovery of television among the bees" by David Blair. Meyer spent 8 months making the VRML version of WaxWeb. When a user goes to the WaxWeb VRML site, WaxWeb generates an assortment of rooms and links - but no two journeys through WaxWeb are ever completely the same. At last count, WaxWeb had over 9000 possible rooms, each rich in content and links.

At Brown University, Meyer studied three-dimensional user interface theory. He is now working at First Virtual Corporation. Meyer is a member of the VAG.

Clay Graham

Former VRML Evangelist at SGI, Graham is now manager of Virtual Reality engineering at Big Book. Graham's background is in architecture.

Graham was the first person to create VRML visualizations for commercial databases, specifically for Sybase. He is currently writing a book on virtual architecture. He feels that the theories outlined in this book will constitute his most important contribution in the field.

At BigBook, Graham applies his effort to creating BigBook3D, a commercial, VRML-centered application on the Internet.


Every craft needs to have a person who only goes by one name.

Mitra has been building online services for over 12 years and got into VRML just before starting work on World's Chat. Mitra's main contribution to the field has been in the area of multi-user technology. As Chief Networking Officer at World's Inc., Mitra helped develop protocols for the first 3D chat systems.

Mitra created conformance tests for VRML 1.0. and co- authored the VRML 2.0 spec, on which he is now busy cleaning up loose ends for the standardization process. He is also at work on both the binary format and the Living Worlds proposal, one of the potential standards for portable personal avatars.

Stepan Pachikov, Leonid Kitainik, and Gregory Slayton

Pachikov founded his company in Russia along with chess champion Gary Kasparov. Pachikov was not a businessman, but a rather a computer scientist. He started his company with a list of 25 of the most difficult problems in artificial intelligence and decided to take on one of them: cursive recognition. Somehow he got the equivalent of $40,000 and he was off.

ParaGraph moved into VRML and now makes authoring tools like Virtual Home Space Builder.

Both Kitainik and Pachikov have great senses of humor.

Slayton is president of Paragraph, and was a founder of Worlds Inc.

Chris Laurel

Laurel's main credit is that he merged Java and VRML, starting a small revolution. According to Dimension X's web page, his official title is Tortured Artist.

Laurel's main projects are Liquid Reality, Dimension X's VRML browser and tool kit, and Ice, a software-only 3D renderer that does texture-mapping, Gouraud shading, depth buffering, and translucency.

Karl Jacob

Jacob began his career at Sun Microsystems. As CEO of Dimension X, Jacob helped start Liquid Reality, the first VRML browser written in Java. Jacob has succeeded in licensing Dimension X's Liquid Reality technology to Microsoft, which will incorporate it into Microsoft Explorer and Windows.

Lisa Goldman, Mark Meadows and James Waldrop

Meadows started out in the industry at Conner Peripherals and, becoming disenchanted, took a sabbatical to fight forest fires and get a philosophy degree. He spent some time working on the WELL's web page before moving on to the Interactive Media Festival. There, Meadows hooked up with the likes of Lisa Goldman, who was the festival's creative director. Goldman introduced Meadows to Mark Pesce, and the two decided the festival gallery needed to be in VRML. The project moved forward with James Waldrop leading the technical development and then they formed Construct Internet Design Company.

Waldrop was formerly developing MUD software at Ubique and other companies. He is known to forget to remove his .sig when letting people hack sendmail on his machine to spam the VRML list.

Meadows infuses the community with his fresh ideas and never ceases pushing the boundaries, amazing every time.

Goldman has a strong background in marketing and public relations and it is her ability to close a deal that has helped to turn Construct into one of the top VRML content companies. She is a true VRML salesperson, who has convinced many large companies to take a chance on VRML.

Chris Marrin

Formerly involved with SGI's WebSpace, Marrin began to work on Cosmo Player for the PC.

Marrin describes himself as a technologist with an eye toward visual design. He describes VRML as a "convergence of every conceivable media type into a single, interactive, virtual environment."

Called the "unsung hero of the VRML 2.0 process" by some of his colleagues, Marrin is about to assume the role of VRML Architect at SGI. This means he will be working on the VRML Consortium and dealing with issues in the 2.0 specification, external APIs and VRMLScript. He's also about to get married!

Paul Strauss

Strauss wrote QvLib, SGI's VRML parser that is the basis of most VRML browsers to date. When he named it, he was certain someone would give it a snazzier name, but no one has yet.

Strauss is the original architect of Open Inventor, the format that formed the basis of the VRML 1.0 spec.

David Frerichs

David Frerichs is the VRML Product Manager at Silicon Graphics. With a degree in Computer Engineering from the University of Illinois, Champaign/Urbana, Frerichs has two patents related to source-less VR head-tracking and the scaling of VR sensor data. A founder of Future Vision Technologies, Inc., Frerichs went to build cyberspace at Silicon Graphics after selling his company to Fujitsu Microelectronics, Inc.

His big moment at the Spring Internet World VRML BOF was telling everyone, "I told you so!" (Ask him about it).

Rodger Lea and Kouichi Matsuda

Lea and Matsuda, members of Sony's Virtual Society team, authored the Java Binding API for VRML 2.0.

Lea designs and develops distributed systems, concentrating operating systems in the past, and more recently exploring how to use such a platform to support cooperative working using tools and multimedia in a shared, distributed 3D virtual environment.

Both Lea and Matsuda are major players in the Virtual Society project, a shared virtual environment for the World Wide Web which uses VRML and is designed for low- bandwidth, wide area networks.

Lea's home page has a picture of him shaving somewhere in the mountains of Nepal.

Franz Buchenberger, Robert Rockwell, and Konstantin Guericke

Black Sun, the company that Buchenberger founded in July of 1995 with offices in Munich, Germany and San Francisco, was named after the fictional center of the Metaverse in Neal Stevenson's "SnowCrash."

Taking after its namesake, Black Sun develops software that enables multiple users to interact with each other in three- dimensional worlds.

Franz says he likes to "work with people who share (his) view that nothing is impossible."

Rockwell is known for his passionate views on including avatars into the VRML Specification.

Guericke, formerly in marketing at Caligari, sports the license plate "VRML".

David Colleen

Colleen is originally an architect who worked as a project designer on high-rise buildings. He began using 3D models to save time; many of his clients couldn't read blueprints and found it easier to make decisions if they could see a visual representation of the plans. He opened San Francisco's first all digital architecture firm in 1986.

In 1995, Intervista approached Colleen and asked him to put up some of his models in VRML. The result was the now legendary Virtual SOMA, which was built with intense collaboration between Colleen and Intervista, even before the first VRML browser was completed.

As founder and head of Planet 9 Studios, Colleen's mission is twofold: 1) to build custom corporate worlds - they have already built such for Intel, SoftBank, MicroSoft and IBM, and 2) to have all cities in the known universe accessible in VRML.

His hot tub features the butt prints of some of VRML's finest.

Dan Greening

Dan Greening got into VRML by accident. His company, Chaco, was developing a MUD called Pueblo when a client offered him development money if he would incorporate VRML into the project. Midway into the project, the client had a budget slashing, but Greening kept going.

The fundamental goal of Chaco is to make the Internet a social infrastructure. Chaco sees their work as more than 3D chat. They want to create an interactive virtual space that is valuable and interesting whether there is one user in the space or many.

Roman Ormandy

In 1986, way before the World Wide Web was a reality, Ormandy started Caligari Inc. with a mission: to operate and develop tools for on-line 3D worlds. The market for corporate video production looked poised for fast growth but there were no development products available that were affordable, integrated and easy to use. Ormandy focused on ray-tracing and animation for the Amiga but switched when it became obvious that PCs would be the de facto standard in the industry.

What makes Ormandy and his company so important is their VRML authoring tools. Caligari makes Pioneer and Pioneer Pro, two of the most popular tools to date.

Timothy Childs

A co-founder of VeRGE, the society dedicated to the furthering of all thing Virtual, Childs likes to take books from the Krishna's at airports. He is also a co-founder of Curve Inc., a new virtual reality company. He has consulted with Superscape, and was previously with Virtual I/O and Ono-Sendai..

Don Brutzman

Brutzman has helped organize several of the SIGGRAPH VRML BOF (Birds of a Feather) meetings. Brutzman is also involved in organizing the VRML Consortium and the VRML 97 conference.

His career goal is to "design and implement a large-scale networked underwater virtual world." He has been in the Navy for over 20 years and just recently received his Ph.D. from the Naval Post Graduate School in Monterey, where he is an Assistant Professor. He has published several papers dealing with oceanography and computer graphics.

Dave Blackburn

President of Virtual Ventures, Blackburn is a man of many trades - a writer, an organizer and a developer. He writes the VRML World Column for Mecklermedia's IWorld site. He organized the VRML track for Mecklermedia's Web Interactive conference.

Bernie Roehl

Roehl is mostly a programmer and an author. He has several book credits, including his most recent co-authorship of "Special Edition: Using VRML" with Stephen Matsuba. Roehl is a columnist whose article appear in such magazines as "VR News" and "Virtual Reality Special Report ". His latest contribution is the application of his fine copy editing skills to the new VRML 2.0 spec.

Dave Nadeau & John Moreland

These two are mention together simply because that is how their names usually appear. Nadeau & Moreland have made most the their major contributions to VRML together.

VRML was a natural field for both of them, as their work at SDSC focuses on the development of scientific visualization tools. Since getting into VRML, they developed many VRML applications and educational materials, including "The VRML Sourcebook," which they co-authored with Andrea Ames.

They co-manage the VRML Repository They have also been very involved in the organization of several conferences such as the First VRML Symposium in December 1995 at SDSC, and in SIGGRAPH, in which they have played major roles since 1988.

Nadeau was one of the developers of behavior ideas, publishing papers on the subject and prototyping software.

Jeff Sonstein

Jeff Sonstein created VrmLab, an influential VRML site with experiments in applying VRML to various information visualization and organization problems. He also writes on VRML, including a chapter in "Special Edition Using VRML".

Adrian Scott

Almost literally a boy wonder, this 23-year-old Ph.D. and CEO of Aereal Inc. is the publisher and creator of VRMLSite Magazine.

Scott is co-author or contributing author to several books and magazines about VRML and speaks world-wide on the subject. His pioneering work in dynamically-created VRML includes Virtual World Factory -- the first Web-based VRML authoring tool -- and Instant VRML Home World, which has enabled thousands of Web users to create their own VRML world.

He created the alt.lang.vrml and comp.lang.vrml newsgroups and is author of the VRML/Java/JavaScript FAQ.

Relative URLs

John Gluck is the Editor of VRMLSite Magazine. Formerly a staff writer with Interactive Network Televison, he is now a professional website designer by trade, and has consulted on sites for Hewlett-Packard and the Federal Reserve Bank. He lives in San Francisco and in his spare time, (hah!) he writes fiction.

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