Several recent announcements from the Web3D Consortium and its members highlight the progress of the Extensible 3D (X3D) specification and development of commercial software to support 3D authoring and browsing. The standardization milestones and industry momentum point to the emergence of a 3D Web. "X3D is a major upgrade from the Virtual Reality Modeling Language (VRML) 97 standard, retaining backwards compatibility with a huge base of available 3D content, but utilizing an open profile/components-based architecture enabling custom-crafted scalable implementations. X3D incorporates numerous advanced 3D techniques including advanced rendering and multi-texturing, Non-Uniform Rational B-Spline (NURBS) Surfaces, GeoSpatial referencing, Humanoid Animation (H-Anim), and IEEE Distributed Interactive Simulation (DIS) networking." Key X3D specification documents have been approved for ISO FDIS status, and the X3D Task Group has issued an X3D Compressed Binary Encoding Request for Proposals (RFP) for encoding of the abstract functionality described in X3D Abstract Specification. The Task Group "expects to create a format definition that combines progressive geometric compression with XML serialization, encryption and authentication, all in a streamable format by the end of calendar year 2003. The Web3D Consortium has also formed the Extensible Modeling and Simulation Framework (XMSF) Working Group to enable large-scale X3D deployment for simulation using Web Services. The Consortium continues executing a strong strategic partnership with the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), ensuring the broadest possible X3D interoperability with the growing family of Extensible Markup Language (XML) specifications. X3D is gaining significant commercial momentum with the first commercial-grade X3D browsers, recently announced at SIGGRAPH from a number of companies."
From the Web3D Consortium Siggraph Announcement
Within the Web3D Consortium, the X3D Working Group is now is now preparing to accept Binary Encoding technology proposals for review, and expects to create a format definition that combines progressive geometric compression with XML serialization, encryption and authentication, all in a streamable format by the end of calendar year 2003. Additionally, the Consortium has formed the Extensible Modeling and Simulation Framework (XMSF) Working Group to enable large-scale X3D deployment for simulation using Web Services. An ongoing series of XMSF workshops and test-bed exhibitions are demonstrating that all manner of modeling and simulation can be performed across the Web, focused on business, government and military application environments.
"X3D reaching final ISO Draft International Standard confirms it is an effective basis for 3D graphics on the Web. Many companies, organizations and government agencies need to build models on the firm foundation of an international standard," said Don Brutzman, research professor at the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) and X3D Working Group co-chair. "NPS and Sun are also finding significant interest in the XMSF initiative, applying Web Services with X3D to major unfilled needs of business and government. We are delighted to see the Consortium establish a forum for continued progress with formation of the XMSF working group."
X3D is gaining significant commercial momentum with the first commercial-grade X3D browsers being announced at SIGGRAPH from a number of companies. Consortium member company Yumetech Inc. announced an update release of the Xj3D open-source X3D browser and application library. X3D co-chair Tony Parisi's company, MediaMachines, has released it's Flux X3D browser. Other product announcements include Communications Research Centre (CRC) Canada's X3D-update Release 1.0 of FreeWrl, and BitManagement's release of an X3D-updated Contact browser. NPS has also updated the X3D-Edit authoring tool which includes XML-based tooltips in Chinese, English, French, German and Spanish. Over 1500 X3D example scenes exercise all parts of the new specification, with many collected in the X3D Conformance Suite. All of this influential work is available as part of the "Summer 2003 X3D Software Development Kit" (SDK), a 2-CD set sponsored by CRC Canada available at SIGGRAPH and online.
"Yumetech is utilizing the X3D standard as the foundation for our business. We have driven both the development of the standard and open source implementations to encourage widespread industry utilization," said Alan Hudson, CEO of Yumetech. "We are finding very strong interest from our customer base in X3D browser solutions that combine cutting-edge 3D technology with the stability of an international standard." In a recent related release Virtock Technologies announced the release of Vizx3D v.1.0 Beta , a new real-time 3D visualization tool and web3D authoring platform to create X3D content. The new application combines the advanced capabilities of the new X3D format with the simplicity of interface and usage that Virtock Technologies' Spazz3D was well known for.
"X3D embodies best practices in commercial real time graphics within the framework of the XML family of technologies," said Tony Parisi, president of Media Machines and X3D Working Group co-chair. "X3D's solid technical foundation, shepherded by ISO and the Web3D consortium to ensure interoperability, forms the core of a next-generation Web and broadcast infrastructure that will transform the way people learn, work, play and communicate. Media Machines is committed to providing best-in-class support of this emerging standard to our customers and partners building applications in the sciences, engineering and education."
Submission during SIGGRAPH of the final-form X3D Abstract Specification documents establishes X3D as a Draft International Standard, approved through joint efforts of Web3D Consortium and ISO/IEC. X3D is a major upgrade from the Virtual Reality Modeling Language (VRML) 97 standard, retaining backwards compatibility with a huge base of available 3D content, but utilizing an open profile/components-based architecture enabling custom-crafted scalable implementations. X3D incorporates numerous advanced 3D techniques including advanced rendering and multi-texturing, Non-Uniform Rational B-Spline (NURBS) Surfaces, GeoSpatial referencing, Humanoid Animation (H-Anim), and IEEE Distributed Interactive Simulation (DIS) networking.
From Len Bullard's XML.com Article
An excellent summary "Extensible 3D: XML Meets VRML" was written by Len Bullard and published by XML.com. Excerpts:
"The new web 3D standard is X3D/ Extensible 3D. Open source libraries and commercial plugins have already been released in beta for this new standard. Exporters from commercial editors and dedicated editors are in development. Freeware editors are already available."
"Because of the existing legacy of VRML97, and because the standards development team and others have been working hard to create the necessary resources, X3D users start with a treasure trove. There are three outstanding X3D browsers and toolkits that support the XML-encoding now. First, Xj3D is a Java browser. The second, Flux, is an Active-X plugin for use inside Internet Explorer. The third is Contact, an OCX for Internet Explorer from Bitmanagement Software GmbH."
"X3D Editors, Exporters and Converters: While VRML has good editor support from editors such as Spazz3D and exporters for professional systems such as Maya, XML support is only now being adopted. An open source project for an exporter from 3DStudio Max is underway..."
What features of X3D distinguish it from VRML97? According to Tony Parisi, from Media Machines Inc., the most important new features are the following.
- Multiple data encodings (XML, VRML 'classic', Binary)
- New graphics features (NURBs, Humanoid Animation, Multitexturing, Triangle primitives, 2D shapes inside 3D)
- New networking features (LoadSensor, improved Inline)
- Improved APIs, more language/object model bindings (e.g. DOM) and many clarifications to event model for better conformance
- Modularity (the standard is broken up into profiles and components so it can be supported at many levels) MPEG-4 has streaming interactive 3D using VRML
"It's now possible to create real-time simulations using a powerful combination of XML and VRML. The potential for applying XML technologies such as XSLT to combine higher level language descriptions that can then be rendered into free-roaming worlds full of intelligent and even mischievous objects is on the horizon. There are interesting aspects of X3D such as GeoVRML and Human Animation (standard avatars) as well as scripting with exciting applications to such diverse domains as virtual theater and public safety systems. The challenge of creating real-time 3D applications using a standard XML application language for the Web has been realized."
From the X3D Compressed Binary Encoding RFP
"The Web3D Consortium's Extensible 3D (X3D) Working Group requests technology contributions for development of the X3D Compressed Binary Encoding. The due date for submissions is 1 November 2003... The X3D Working Group is developing the Extensible 3D (X3D) Graphics Specification as a componentized and extensible evolution of the Virtual Reality Modeling Language (VRML 97) standard. The X3D Abstract Specification (IISO/IEC 19775-1) is now advanced as an ISO Draft International Specification. No further functional changes are allowed in this version of the specification, thus enabling significant optimization of corresponding compression algorithms. X3D includes multiple encodings that consistently implement the same abstract-functionality specification. The Extensible Markup Language (XML) and Classic VRML encodings are currently defined. The forthcoming X3D Compressed Binary Encoding will also fully implement X3D capabilities... The compressed binary encoding Shall be able to encode all of the abstract functionality described in X3D Abstract Specification. The compressed binary encoding shall contain identical information to the other X3D encodings (XML and Classic VRML). It shall support an identical round-trip conversion between the X3D encodings... Compressed binary encoding will optionally enable security, content protection, privacy preferences and metadata such as encryption, conditional access, and watermarking. Default solutions are those defined by the W3C Recommendations for XML Encryption and XML Signature... All technology submissions must follow the predeclaration requirements of the Web3D Consortium IPR policy in order to be considered for inclusion... Extensive work has gone into proving the concept of binary structure for the X3D scene graph. The NPS Cross-Format Schema Protocol (XFSP) has been developed as a general approach to binary serialization of XML documents. Yumetech and Media Machines have also developed prototyped X3D tokenized binary formats. The X3D Specification Team expects to use the results of these efforts, and others as appropriate, to provide the basis of a format definition for automatically serializing and deserializing scene graph structure, through X3D node and field tokenization. The technologies underlying these development efforts are well documented and are to be submitted on a Royalty Free (RF) basis. For the forthcoming scene-graph serialization/deserialization algorithms, two open-source implementations in Java will be provided by Yumetech and NPS. A third open-source implementation in C++ will be provided by MediaMachines. Further private or public implementations are welcome. Technical improvements to XFSP that specifically support X3D optimization will be performed during the conduct of this work. Additionally, should the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) commence work to produce a formal recommendation for XML serialization, we will consider how to adapt to (or adopt) such work..."
- "Web3D Consortium Announces X3D Standard Gains Strong Momentum."
- "The ManyOne Network Releases Flux Version 1.0. Flux Technology Suite Enables Faster, Easier 3D Content Creation Based on Open Standards."
- "The Rebirth of Web3D. Vizx3D v1.0 Beta Released at Siggraph 2003."
- "Extensible 3D: XML Meets VRML." By Len Bullard. From XML.com (August 06, 2003). [pages view]
- X3D Compressed Binary Encoding Request For Proposals (RFP)
- Summer 2003 SDK - "focused on Extensible 3D (X3D) graphics"
- X3D Graphics Working Group
- Comments: send feedback on XFSP Binary RFP to x3d-binary-rfp@web3D.org
- Extensible 3D (X3D) International Draft Standards
- X3D Encodings
- ISO/IEC 19776:200x, X3D Encodings, Part 1: Extensible Markup Language (XML) Encoding
- X3D Specification Process
- Web3D Consortium FAQ
- Web3D Working Groups
- Web3D Consortium website
- "Web3D Consortium Publishes X3D Final Working Draft"
- "VRML (Virtual Reality Modeling Language) and X3D" - Main reference page.