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3D Graphics Technology: VRML Part I - Introduction

Virtual reality modeling language provides the graphics capability to let you create 3D objects, even whole worlds, which you can upload to your website. Visitors can then interact with these virtual items. VRML has many applications. In this first article in a series, Eliana Stavrou explains the basics and provide examples.

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By: Eliana Stavrou
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February 14, 2005
  1. · 3D Graphics Technology: VRML Part I - Introduction
  2. · History of VRML
  3. · Producing VRML
  4. · Examples

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3D Graphics Technology: VRML Part I - Introduction - Producing VRML
(Page 3 of 4 )

There are several options for building VRML worlds. In simple terms they break down into two areas:

  • Code VRML by hand.  

This is the best way to learn VRML development. It will take you a lot longer, but it is guaranteed that you will learn the secrets of VMRL (as with any other programming language you try to learn by writing pure code). In order to write VRML code you will need a good knowledge of programming languages, if you want to use some of the powerful features of VRML such as animation and interaction. A VRML world can be created with a simple text editor like Notepad.

  • Use a Development Tool.

Instead of writing VRML code by hand, you can use development tools to help you build VRML worlds more easily and much more quickly. By using development tools you generate reliable VRML code, and you gain access to many complex features that are difficult to implement by hand.

Viewing VRML Worlds

So, you have created your VRML world and uploaded it onto your Web site. Do you know how a user can view your virtual world?

First, the user selects the VRML world, associated with a vrmlworld.wrl file. The browser identifies the file extension as a VRML extension and tries to launch the appropriate plug-in application to display the VRML content. If the user has a VRML plug-in, it is loaded to display the VRML world; otherwise the browser notifies the user that he or she must download the plug-in, and until downloading it the VRML file does not display anything. Then, the plug-in parses the VRML file containing the description of the world and constructs the actual virtual world. Finally, the user can view and interact with items in the virtual world.

Keep in mind that other VRML browsers exist, although the usage of a plug-in application is more widespread. Some popular plug-ins are:  

  • Cortona VRML Client works as a VRML plug-in for popular Internet browsers (Internet Explorer, Netscape Navigator, Mozilla, etc.) and office applications (Microsoft PowerPoint, Microsoft Word, etc). You can download Cortona plug-in from http://www.parallelgraphics.com/products/cortona/ for Windows or Mac platform. This is the plug-in I have, and I will use it to demonstrate to you the VRML examples in the next article.

  • Cosmo Player VRML plug-in can be downloaded for free from NIST (Windows and PowerMac). Cosmo Player has been developed by many companies including Cosmo Software, SGI (Silicon Graphics) and Platinum. The PC version of the plug-in is no longer available from any of them, and also is not updated; however, the IRIX version of Cosmo Player can still be downloaded from SGI.

  • blaxxun Contact 5.1 satisfies the full VRML ISO standard and supports the new X3D standard. It can only be used on Windows. This plug-in can be downloaded from http://www.blaxxun.com/en/products/contact/index.html.

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