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Brian Blau—
VRML: Future of the Collaborative 3D Internet


VRML (virtual reality modeling language) is the three-dimensional computer graphics interchange file specification that has become the standard for Internet-based simulations. It is being used in many industries, and the momentum of the standard and industry acceptance continues to grow at a fast pace. Most of the major software and hardware corporations are now starting serious efforts to build core VRML technologies directly into business applications, scientific and engineering tools, software development tools, and entertainment applications.

One of the most significant developments in the history of VRML was its adoption by Silicon Graphics Inc. (SGI), Netscape, and Microsoft during 1995-1996. This broad level of industry acceptance continues to challenge the VRML community to provide an official international standard so that wide adoption will be possible. Given that creation of VRML came from a unique and open consensus-based process, its future depends on continued innovation in the directions of true distributed simulations as well as efforts to keep the standards process moving forward.

Historical Development of VRML

Over the past two years the development of a standard for distributing 3D computer graphics and simulations over the Internet has taken the quick path from idea to reality. In 1994 a few San Francisco cyberspace artisans (Mark Pesce, Tony Parisi, and Gavin Bell) combined their efforts to start the VRML effort. Their intention was to create a standard that would enable artists and designers to deliver a new kind of content to the browsable Internet.

In mid-1995 VRML version 1.0 emerged as the first attempt at this standard. After an open Internet vote, VRML 1.0 was to be based on Silicon Graphics' popular Open Inventor technology. VRML was widely evaluated as unique and progressive but still not useable. At this point broad industry support for VRML was coalescing in an effort to kick-start a new industry. Complimentary efforts were also underway to deliver both audio and video over the Internet. The general feeling was that soon the broad acceptance of distributed multimedia on the Internet was a real possibility and that VRML would emerge as the 3D standard.

After completion of the VRML 1.0 standard, the VRML Architecture Group (VAG) was established at SIGGRAPH 1995 and consisted of eight

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