Friday, March 09, 2001

The 3D Scene ~ a special report from Virtual Worlds' by a participant

3DeZine: Web3D Symposium 2001, Feb 19-22 Paderborn, Germany First-hand, nth space

We hadn't been to Paderborn since 1999's Web3D Symposium when the news of Platinum's layoff of the Cosmo team was the buzz. At that time, despite all the great work being shown and the exciting technologies being demo-d, the Web3D community's optimism was seriously deflated by the news that one of the seminal VRML product lines (Cosmo Worlds, Cosmo FX, Cosmo Player which was born out of SGI) was axed. A lot has happened since then: other VRML players have appeared and improved, other proprietary Web3D formats have proliferated, and the dot-com bubble of over-valuation and over-expenditure has burst. So it was with great curiosity that the VirtuWorlds' team arrived at this year's Symposium to check out the scene- the survivors and the success stories.

Hosted by c-lab, Sponsored by ACM Siggraph and the Web3D Consortium, the conference was again held at the Heinz-Nixsdorf Museum: a futuristic complex boasting the world's largest computer museum. This, combined with the history of the town, makes pastoral Paderborn a place of paradox. As a walled city with five springs in a fertile valley 1.5 hours East of Cologne, Paderborn was a strategic center for King Charlemain's European campaign - he met here with the Pope to christen the Holy Roman Empire in the late 8th century. The architecture of the inner town is typical old-German, and the Cathedral and Rathaus can easily bring one's mind back to centuries of old.

As with any conference, some of the highlights are getting to meet your colleagues from Working Groups and Mailing lists face to face. We have found that both formal and informal events gave us time to discuss and envision our future work and collaboration. The gathering was already looking pretty good on Sunday evening when we met some other Web3Ders at the Youth Hostel and then at the Ibis Hotel and kicked off the week with a hearty sampling of the local beers…

The Trade Show / Exhibition ran from Tuesday through Thursday and a good variety of international companies participated. We will publish a complete listing soon at, but some notable booths included GOMID, who has built a new cross-platform browser that runs HTML, VRML and H-Anim; Humusoft, who integrated the powerful engineering softwares of MATLAB and SIMULINK with VRML visualization; GeoNova, who had some very compelling continuous level-of-detail terrain visualizations; SGDL Systems, whose light, volumetric 3D description format looked amazing; and, of course, VirtuWorlds' 3DeZine who showed their new site design, 3D navigation interface, and held 'Fireside Chats' with notable companies' representatives!

In the relaxed atmosphere of our booth, we held 'Fireside Chats' next to the warming heat of a simulated fireplace (Christmas lights in a box), we got some time to chat with the likes of Eric Anschutz & Paul Isaacs (Eyematic Interfaces & shout interactive), Neil Trevett (3Dlabs & Web3D Consortium), Sara Larsson (Cycore), and Paul Diefenbach (OpenWorlds). We will publish these interesting interviews with more detail and include our other virtual guests Holger Grahn & Marc Kaufmann (blaxxun) and Connell Gallagher (ParallelGraphics)!

The Web3D Consortium Commercial Track highlighted commercial applications of Web3D by giving companies a half hour to present and pitch their products and/or services. Some big names presented here including Sun and SONY. At SONY's presentation, we got see some video footage showing the capabilities of their Blendo project: the layered integration of 3D and rich media for broadband entertainment applications. Presenters: Sun Microsystems, SONY, Parallel Graphics, SGDL Systems Inc., Open Worlds, VirtuWorlds, Geometrek Inc., GOMID. We showcased the latest developments of our 3DeZine and announced our upcoming web destination: The Web3D Exchange. The mission of the Web3DExchange is to collect and connect the Web3D industry and community into one comprehensive and easy-to-use resource network. At the Web3DExchange, graphics designers, developers, project managers, and IT professionals will find the right combination of products, prices, and information needed to get the job done. You can find more about this at our site too, or email me.

Finally, the most fun event of the Symposium, the infamous Web3D Roundup consisted of 13 nominated demos at the Web3D Symposium in Paderborn. They were introduced by Timothy Childs and his 3D video cowboy Avatar. Eric Anschutz was excited to tell us it was a last minute creation made with Eyematic's new toy. It came out very nicely. All the attendees were given last year's "squeak-a-zugs" to yell for a demo and very noisy balloons (which sounded flatulent) to demonstrate how er, "poopy" we thought a demo was. I can tell you we were pretty rude. Anything even remotely to do with games - preferably racing - was good. JaRules' Online Music Video didn't make it through the noises and Sony's presentation was not in favorable standing with the crowd at the Roundup. Rest assured that the best two demos won... Winners this round were Papillion by Vcom3D and Eyematic by Eyematic. The atmosphere was charged with a serious level of highly energetic, yet remorseless fun, which was stirred up by the furry bendable sticks and other toys at the table. The beautifully displayed food was alluring from the corners of our eyes and of course the beer party afterwards made for much more fun!

(written by T. Martin)