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VR / VRML Newsletter Archive
November 1997

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

November, 1997: Volume 1

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:

- You’re Part of the Action with VR Movie Previews: Hollywood Goes VR.

- Everything You've Always Wanted to Know about VR, But Didn't Know  Who to Ask" -- THE Online Guide to VRML 2.0.

- Hot Tip: How to Add VR to Your Site Using Aesthetic World Visions.

- Living In The Real World: The Straight Dope on VR Authoring Tools, by A.S. President and VR Maverick, Gary Falacara


Hold on to Your Seat...Hollywood Has Holiday VR Sites That'll Put You in 3D Heaven.

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This holiday season Hollywood is adding a new dimension to Web-based movie previews – the third dimension. VR games at Web sites such as "Starship Troopers" and "Spawn" are fun and engaging -- and they help keep the film’s plot going…and going…and going.

VR fits perfectly in the new Web site for "Starship Troopers," a recently-released sci-fi thriller by TriStar Pictures. Visitors to the site are told they’ve arrived at the "Federal Network." Neo-military background music (yet another version of the classic "Star Wars" tracks) sets the tone: we’re being invaded again, folks, this time by giant alien insects! (do you sense a cinematic trend here?) If the message from the world leader inspires you to join in the Mobile Infantry, an elite corps of soldiers fighting in this intergalactic war, you can take the "VRML simulation challenge"--- part of an online training exercise. Fight off a praying mantis as big as a house! Watch out for that ant before it makes you its picnic lunch! Every element of the film’s Web site brings this sci-fi world to life, making the VRML game all the more exciting. For more information, see:

http://www.spe.sony.com/Pictures/SonyMovies/movies/Starship


Everything You've Always Wanted to Know about VR, But Didn't Know Who to Ask" -- THE Online Guide to VRML 2.0.

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The online version of "The Annotated VRML 2.0 Reference Manual" is definitely worth bookmarking. Written by two of the architects of VRML --- Rikk Carey and Gavin Bell --- the book contains covers the fundamentals of VRML and includes the complete VRML specification. It also features annotations for beginners and experts, and includes historical footnotes, authoring tips, design motivation, potential pitfalls, implementation details, and clear, easy-to-understand examples. Geared toward advanced technical readers, the book serves as an introduction to VRML as well as an everyday reference guide. The online manual contains live examples as well as a number of usefullinks to VRML resources online, including VRML browsers, VRML organizations and VRML-oriented e-mail lists and newsgroups. The site also directs people to online bookstores where they can buy the hardcopy version of the book.

Go to: http://www.best.com/~rikk/Book/


HOT WEB TIP: Virtually Anyone Can Be A Virtual Architect.
Add VR to Your Site Now!!

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Virtual Reality gives you the ability to created dynamic virtual worlds; these worlds provide the developer with a new, interactive way of presenting ideas to the web audience at large. As a site builder, you can create environments that are fun and informative,and showcase your content in fresh, impactful new ways. These include: VR worlds, ad banners, product demos and games, all of which can easily be deployed within an HTML page.

A VRML scene can be easily placed into WebPages by using the "EMBED" HTML tag:

<embed src="pathname_to_your_VRML_world_file_here" border="0" width="300" height="180">

The "src" field contains a pathname to your VRML world file (e.g., "desert. wrl" or "../worlds/desert.wrl"). The latter fields (i.e., "border", "width", and "height") define characteristics of the window in which your VRML world is displayed. You can define the border thickness of the window by setting the "border" field. In this example, the "border" field is set to zero since no border is desired. The window's width and height are specified in pixel units within the "width" and "height" fields, respectively.

Following the "EMBED" tag, you should include the "NOEMBED" HTML tag, which displays information for browsers that don't activate the "EMBED" plug-in or browsers that don't understand the "EMBED/NOEMBED" tags. Note that while "EMBED" and "NOEMBED" tags are not part of the HTML standard, they are recognized by the more recent versions of both Netscape Navigator and Microsoft Internet Explorer. The information to be displayed by the "NOEMBED" tag is delimited by <noembed> and </noembed>:

<noembed>Sorry, but you can't view my VRML world in this browser!
</noembed>

Have fun including your own VRML worlds in your unique Web pages!


Aesthetic World Visions™ is the world’s first component-based VR authoring tool, and can be used for rapidly creating Virtual Worlds. This patent-pending technology uses a component-based (that is, a reusable-building block) approach. The easy-to-use interface makes it perfect for the novice, while its powerful feature set will appeal to advance users as well. No programming or modeling skill whatsoever is required to build animated interactive 3D worlds quickly and easily. Simply point your browser to: http://www.aesthetic.com to get your FREE copy of Aesthetic World Visions™ trialware from Aesthetic Solutions.


Living In The Real World: The Straight Dope On VR Authoring Tools

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by Gary Falacara, VR Maverick and President, Aesthetic Solutions

-To Author Or Not to Author

"What’s the best kind of tool for VRML development?" Friends interested in getting started with VRML often ask me this question. My typical response is "an authoring tool, of course," which invariably draws a second question: "Where can I find authoring tools and, more Importantly, how do I choose the best one?" Selecting a tool is actually the easy part, and depends on a number of Factors including the developer’s level of expertise, the assets and Tools already available to the developer, and the developer’s budget. The most difficult challenge is determining what actually constitutes an Authoring tool. It is not enough for a tool to have VRML development Capabilities. I can develop VRML with a text editor, but I do not think Of a text editor as an authoring tool. I don’t consider a modeler to be a VRML authoring tool, either. Why? Let me explain.

-What’s in a Name?

I am not sure where the term "authoring tool" originated. My own, most distant recollections of it come from the world of multimedia, where the term "authoring tool" is often used and is typically associated with the highest levels of application development. While an authoring tool can be used to work with, develop, or tinker withlow-level content, it is intended for assembly of application-level content. A multimedia authoring tool, for example, might allow a developer to create animations by importing images created in other tools and positioning and sequencing them. Granted, tight integration in such tools between the actual image development and assembly of the animation can be a big plus, but the ability to work at the application level to create animations is far more important in the context of an authoring tool.

Should a true authoring tool should be capable of developing content at all levels -- must it be complete and self sufficient? When we consider how developers actually work, a self-sufficient tool doesn’t seem necessary or even practical. Consider pricing, for example. A multimedia authoring environment adept at creating both images and animations costs at least three times as much as one that only does animations. Is the higher priced tool really worth the cost difference? It depends, of course, entirely on the needs and habits of the developer.

In some projects, the developer might have a variety of existing images with which to work and may therefore wish to focus on animation rather than image development. Moreover, developers tend to get attached to their tools, and may be unwilling to abandon using a specific imaging tool or modeler they’ve used for years in favor of some integrated (and less sophisticated?) capability in an authoring tool. Developers can always use authoring tools for importing content created by other tools. Completeness in an authoring tool is therefore not nearly as important as is a focus on application-level content-creation and assembly, which differentiates a true authoring VRML tool from other kinds of tools, such as modelers.

-Why Can’t We All Just Get Along?

Modelers, as the name implies, allow us to develop models. A model can be composed of many things including a mathematical phenomenon or a miniature or mockup of a real-world structure. In the world of VRML, we expect our modelers to generate the three- dimensional, geometric models that are used to control the appearance of individual objects in our 3D, virtual worlds.

Modelers are supposed to provide the lowest level of control over geometry, including vertex-level manipulation, material editing, and texture mapping. A modeler is not really an authoring environment,because it does not focus on content development at the highest level of a VRML world. Modelers may have played a greater role in the days of VRML 1.0, when worlds were comprised of nothing more than static models, but with the advent of VRML 2.0, virtual worlds now have a much wider variety of content including animations, scripted behaviors, sounds, and sensors.

The line separating modelers from genuine authoring tools gets a little fuzzy when advanced modelers with particle systems, kinematics, skeletal animation, and sound track editing are considered. These advanced capabilities, however, are not targeted toward thedevelopment of VRML. While such modelers are referred to as authoring tools in other industries such as animated film development, they do not qualify as VRML authoring tools.

Don’t get me wrong. I think modelers are absolutely essential in the grand scheme of VRML development. There is no question that the vast majority modelers are much better at developing models than the best VRML authoring tools. But again, my point is that completeness is not the key trait of an authoring tool. A truly complete VRML tool-set would include one or more modelers, a programming tool (e.g., for Java development), an image editor (for textures), and an authoring tool capable of putting the whole thing together. The best authoring tools must work in concert with other tools in order to be effective.

-All the World’s a Web and All Its People Authors

The availability of true VRML authoring tools is critical to the success of long-term VRML, since there are potentially many more VRML authors than there are modelers and programmers. Modelers and programmers, while often extremely creative, usually rely heavily on their technical skills to perform development. Accordingly, the programming and modeling tools used by such developers are designed to offer power and flexibility while demanding greater skill and attention from the developer.

An authoring tool, on the other hand, allows developers to work in a medium without the complex, technical details of the medium itself. The authoring tool makes it possible for a broader audience to participate in VRML development, as evidenced by the ever-growing number of people actively developing and expanding the Web. Anybody with a little creative instinct and a Web authoring tool can join in. Granted, you can often create far more complex and compelling applications by descending deep into the minutiae of development, but this approach is definitely not for everyone and shouldn’t be required for most development.

Now, if only there were an authoring tool for generating articles . . .

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For in-depth information on Aesthetic World Visions unique authoring technology, see our Introduction to Component-Based VR Technology. Simply go to: http://www.aesthetic.com/papers/avintro_fs.html
And check out VRML 2.0 specifications at: http://vag.vrml.org  

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