Aesthetic Solutions VR/VRML Newsletter image (24258 bytes) A e s t h e t i c
S o l u t i o n s

VR / VRML Newsletter Archive
February 1998

Virtual Visions: e-Newsletter for the VR and VRML Enthusiast

February, 1998: Volume 2

Aesthetic Solutions’ free, fun and useful e-mail newsletter with tips and timely information on VR.
http://www.aesthetic.com

Information on how to SUBSCRIBE and UNSUBSCRIBE is at bottom.


IN THIS ISSUE:

- Brewin' a Hot Trend -- Strap on your HMD (Head-Mounted Display)

- VRML User Groups -- VRML enthusiasts are forming SIGs (Special Interest Groups)

- In VRML's Way: Panacea or Snake Oil? Part 1. by A.S. President, Gary Falacara

- Announcing Aesthetic World Visions 1.01 -- Coming Attractions

- New Virtual Reality Resources in Medicine


Brewin' a Hot Trend -- Strap on your HMD (Head-Mounted Display)

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Strap on your HMD ("Head Mounted Display"), pull on your gloves, and prepare to lose yourself in VR worlds. "Homebrew VR" (also called "garage VR") makes the total VR experience possible from a desktop computer--for no more than a few thousand dollars, including the computer itself. As the cheapest form of Desktop VR (VR systems running on desktop machines), it's no wonder that Homebrew VR has become wildly popular. Before 1993, VR systems would have cost you from five to ten grand!

An essential part of the Homebrew system is the HMD - special viewing goggles. Although you can view VR from your PC monitor or with stereoscopic shutter glasses, these don't offer headtracking capabilities. At around $500 bucks a pop, a good HMD ain't cheap, but it's not nearly as expensive as it was just a few years ago.

For an input device (pointing device) try a VR glove or a converted Mattel Powerglove. Although you can also use input devices such as a joystick, 3-D mouse, forceball-- even your good ol' PC monitor and mouse, the gloves are the only choice for VR addicts. Of course, you'll need a PC and virtual world-building software. A graphics accelerator card can't hurt. And what else? Someone to tap you on the shoulder after your sixth hour immersed in electronic worlds . . .


VRML User Groups

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Designers, programmers, artists and other VRML enthusiasts are forming SIGs (special interest groups) for sharing tips, learning new skills, and networking. The monthly user group meetings are a worthwhile supplement to interactions in VRML newsgroups and mailing lists.

LAVUG logo (4852 bytes)The Los Angeles VRML User Group (LAVUG): http://www.lavug.org meetings, for instance, feature in-person and remote (videoconferencing) presentations by leading VR developers, including developers of VRML tools. At a fall meeting, Sony VRMLer John D. DeCuir gave a demo of the Starship Troopers VR game. At this month's meeting John Graham from Graham Technology Solutions, presents live Video mapped on a surface, like a texture. Graham is video conferencing from San Jose to The Electronic Café International in Los Angeles. http://www.ecafe.com

NYVRMLSIG logo (1540 bytes)These groups also produce special projects and events, such as the free hands-on workshop (Power Tuesday VRML Jam Session) sponsored by the New York VRML Special Interest Group (NYVRMLSIG). As the New York group's Web site: http://www.nyvrmlsig.org points out: "What better way is there to create multimedia projects, then to gather experts in different fields in one room, give them the tools and let them go at it."

Not sure if your city or town has a VRML SIG? Start by contacting local Internet- or computer-related SIGs and associations. Members of these groups may have formed VRML SIGs or know of local VRML user groups. Your other option is to form your own SIG--why not contact LAVUG or NYVRMLSIG for ideas?


In VRML's Way: Panacea or Snake Oil? Part 1.
By Gary Falacara, President, Aesthetic Solutions

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Panacea or Snake Oil?

I have been out the office quite a bit lately and during my travels I had the opportunity to speak with a variety of people about the past, present, and future of Virtual Reality Modeling Language (VRML). VRML seems to elicit great passion from those familiar with it. You either hate VRML and dismiss it as a "toy" technology or you love it and embrace it as the catalyst for a "Second web." So what is the truth? Is VRML a toy technology or not? Is it significant? Is it even useful?

Brace Yourselves

At the risk of pissing off a lot of passionate people, I am going to give you my take. To be fair, I should preface my remarks by making one thing clear. To a great extent, my livelihood depends on some level of success for VRML. Now that I have exposed my bias, I can tell you that I also subscribe to the belief that VRML has not yet fulfilled its promise. Please don't get me wrong. I am not saying that VRML isn't or won't ever be successful. I do acknowledge, however, that many people have been disappointed by VRML.

The Grand Criticism

The most frequent criticism I hear about VRML goes something like this: "VRML is not a sophisticated enough technology for serious applications." I wish I had a nickel for every time I have heard VRML's detractors refer to it as a "toy" technology. I beg to differ. For one, I don't believe that VRML is a technology at all. According to the American Heritage dictionary that resides on my computer, technology is defined as "the application of science, especially to industrial or commercial objectives." Is VRML really an application? I don't think so. VRML is a standard that defines a format for the portable specification of interactive, real-time 3D scenes. While being complete in many respects, the VRML standard, like most language and file format standards, does not strictly dictate how each and every construct must be interpreted or implemented.

The Real Technology

You don't believe me? Can you honestly say that each and every VRML browser displays exactly the same colors or lighting effects? Does every VRML browser load files in the same way? I can personally attest to the fact they do not and this has created an endless series of headaches for me as a developer. I know some of you are sitting there right now saying this is because many of the browsers don't properly implement the standard. I won't argue with you on that one, because in my opinion some of the "compliant" browsers are not so compliant. The real point, however, is that the real technology here consists of the browsers and tools that have grown up around the VRML standard, and herein lie the real problems.

(To Be Continued in next edition of Virtual Views)


Announcing Aesthetic World Visions™ 1.01

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Aesthetic World Visions™ 1.01 is now available for download. In  addition to some minor bug fixes and upgrades, Aesthetic World Visions™ 1.01 contains several key improvements over 1.00 including:

*Integration with The ComponentMaker VRML 2.0 Model Importer

You can now use many of your own VRML models as components by importing them into your component library using the ComponentMaker import tool. This tool is integrated directly into Aesthetic World Visions™ 1.01, but is also available in a stand alone form.

*Better Cosmo Player Compatibility in Export Format

The VRML export format of Aesthetic World Visions™ 1.01 has been upgraded to provide much better compatibility with the popular Cosmo 2.0 VRML browser. Now you can see the great lighting and fog effects that Aesthetic World Visions™ is capable of creating in full splendor. Just load your exported worlds directly into your Cosmo browsers.

*New Standard Shapes

Several new components include standard shapes whose coloring and textures are under your full control.

*A World Visions 1.00->1.01 Upgrader is Available FREE OF CHARGE

An upgrade for Aesthetic World Visions™ 1.00 is free to all fully registered users. In fact, ALL UPGRADES through the release of Aesthetic World Visions™ 2.0 will be available FREE to fully registered users of any version of Aesthetic World Visions™ 1.xx. Details at our website: http://www.aesthetic.com

*Get Your Bonus Component Library By Registering for Preview

If you download and register a trial version for preview mode, we will send you a message with the location of a bonus pack of 20 additional components for use with AestheticWorld Visions™. Just provide us with a valid name and email address when you enter preview mode (you will be prompted to do this when you launch the tool). That's all there is to it! We'll get back to you and let you know how to get and unlock the bonus back.

*As of Feb 1, 1998, the price for the downloaded version of Aesthetic World Visions™ is $89.99.

This price includes free maintenance ugrades through version 2.0 but does NOT include any discounts on upgrades to either Aesthetic World Visions™ 2.0 or Component Visions™ 1.0.

*Coming Attractions

Component Visions™ Beta 1 is coming! Keep your web browser pointed to: http://www.aesthetic.com . We will soon be releasing Beta 1 of our Component Visions™ tools that will allow more expert users to create their own components from scratch or by importing and modifying models created with your favorite modeling package.

*Also watch for the "Design an Adventure for 'Viejo Joe'  Contest."

Viejo Joe sneak peek image (2688 bytes) We will be releasing the "Viejo Joe" character soon and letting everyone know how they can obtain web immortality by designing a VR adventure for old Joe.

New VR Resources in Medicine

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"CyberPsychology and Behavior" Magazine.
The Impact of the Internet, Multimedia and Virtual Reality on Behavior and Society. (Look in "Publications", "Journals" 9th one down)
http://www.liebertpub.com

Military Medical Tech Magazine (premier issue)
Covers Telemedicine and Medical VR Fall 97/Winter 98
For info: kerriganmedia@worldnet.att.net

HUGO Anatomical Volume and Surface Data Set CDROM of 1mm (voxel) body slices in VR model. 4mm data is also available free from Visible Human Project (Your taxes paid for it.)
http://www.nlm.nih.gov


Contact Us

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We would love to hear from you, and will answer any questions you may have.  In addition, if you would like to submit an article for a future issue of this publication, just let us know!

Send your comments and non-technical questions to:
main@aesthetic.com

Aesthetic Solutions also offers top-flight Tech Support to assist you with any additional questions you might have.
support@aesthetic.com

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