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Transforming Technologies for Mobile 3D Computing

In the first part of this two-part series we examined the emerging mobile 3D market and considered several of the many forms that three-dimensional content may take as it begins to appear on a new generation of hardware-accelerated mobile devices.

In Part 2 of this series we'll examine a number of the software technologies that developers will use to create mobile 3D applications. Specifically, we'll focus on a core group of open standards and technologies, namely Extensible 3D (X3D), Java Mobile 3D Graphics APIs, and OpenGL for Embedded Systems (OpenGL ES). Along the way we'll describe the organizations and key corporate members behind these technologies in hopes of shedding some light on the size and scope of these industry-led efforts.

Web3D and MPEG-4

The term "Web3D" describes a variety of Web- and Internet-based 3D technologies designed and developed by (or otherwise endorsed by) the Web3D Consortium. As a nonprofit organization established to provide a forum for the creation of open Web3D standards and specifications and to accelerate the worldwide demand for products based on these standards through the sponsorship of market and user education programs, the Web3D Consortium traces it roots back to 1994 and the Virtual Reality Modeling Language (VRML).

Originally known as the VRML Consortium, the organization was renamed Web3D Consortium in 1998 to reflect an expanded charter that today governs the organization's activities. The Web3D Consortium's charter delineates goals to 1) Foster the ongoing development of Web3D specifications and standards and promote rapid industry adoption of these technologies, 2) Offer opportunities for the 3D development community to meet and cooperate in the evolution of Web3D technologies, 3) Educate the business and consumer communities on the value, benefits and applications of 3D technologies on the Internet, 4) Support the creation of conformance tests to assure Web3D interoperability, and 5) Liaison with educational institutions, government research institutes, technology consortia, and other organizations which support and contribute to the development of specifications and standards for Web3D.

Web3D Consortium members include a number of leading high-technology companies, government agencies, and organizations, including 3Dlabs, Naval Postgraduate School, US ARMY PEO-STRI, NASA, National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), Autodesk, Sun Microsystems, Hewlett Packard (HP), NVIDIA and others active in the 3D industry. In addition, academic members such as The Mitre Corporation, Virginia Tech, Communications Research Center of Canada, and SRI International compliment more than 100 professional (individual) and student members. In addition, the Web3D Consortium maintains formal Liaison relationships with related standards groups such as the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and Moving Picture Experts Group (MPEG) to ensure interoperability and compatibility at the standards level.

By following a time-tested and open process that has evolved over the past decade, the Web3D Consortium and its members have designed and developed core 3D technologies such as VRML and Extensible 3D (X3D) and numerous related technologies such as Universal Media, Humanoid Animation (H-Anim), geographical extensions to VRML (GeoVRML), Virtual Reality Transport Protocol (VRTP), Distributed Interactive Simulation (DIS), and more. Source code for these and other open technologies developed by the Web3D Consortium is available directly from the Working Group sites related to each activity.

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