By Will Gee, Technical Associate
VRML (virtual reality modeling language) is the standard for rendering three-dimensional objects on the
Web. VRML objects exist in a virtual world and can be linked to other objects such as ActiveX and Java
applets, CGI and Java scripts, images, multimedia files and even URLs.
VRML-aware applications let users freely explore, manipulate and edit interactive 3-D environments.
Some VRML packages only allow you to browse, while others offer various degrees of object creation and
Virtus 3-D Website Builder and Caligari's Pioneer and Pioneer Pro target the novice user, offering the
necessary tools to build 3-D worlds for the Web. VRML plug-ins for Netscape and Explorer are also
A pair of high-end three-dimensional graphics applications, Kinetix 3D Studio MAX and Microsoft
SoftImage 3D, now offer VRML export features. But the best way to understand what VRML offers is to
visit existing sites. For an example of what VRML looks like, swing by Intel's Web site at
http://www.intel.com. The VRML Repository at
http://sdsc.edu/vrml is another excellent place to
The final revision of the Moving Worlds VRML 2.0 specification was completed this summer. This faster,
more robust standard could accelerate development in this market. Silicon Graphics' Cosmo Player for
Windows 95 and NT is the first browser to use the new VRML 2.0 standard.
Cruising through the virtual online world does have a few hazards. Case in point: HTML pages load
slowly, and VRML pages additionally force your computer to render the instructions in the page, which
takes up local CPU time. Although a complex VRML page can be compelling, users may choose to go
elsewhere if the wait becomes too long.
It will take time before many sites get up to speed with the Moving Worlds VRML 2.0 spec. Both
authoring tools and browsers must be revised to take advantage of the new standard. Once VRML tools
mature and available bandwidth becomes less of a concern, however, you can expect a plethora of quality
VRML "homesteads" on the Web.