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XML3D: the 3D web's new champion?

3D Web

By Stuart Turton in Hannover

Posted on 3 Mar 2010 at 18:58

As Mozilla and Google push to bring native 3D rendering to the browser, a team of German researchers could beat them to the punch with XML3D.

In an impressive presentation at CeBIT, the team from Saarland University demonstrated the Venice Wikipedia page spiced up with a 3D scene of one of the city's palaces.

The scene was embedded into the page just as an image would be, but could be interacted with like any 3D application, allowing the team to take us on a seamless virtual tour through the palace, running without any noticeable lag or judder.

XML3D is an extension to HTML, and that means we use the same events as HTML; programmers can apply their knowledge to 3D without needing to become an expert in another language

According to project lead Professor Philipp Slusallek, what separates XML3D from competing projects, such as Google's O3D and Mozilla's WebGL, is that it simply extends HTML with a real-time raytracing algorithm.

"XML3D is an extension to HTML, and that means we use the same events as HTML; programmers can apply their knowledge to 3D without needing to become an expert in another language," said Slusallek.

Slusallek demonstrated XML3D on a version of Firefox modified to support the technology, and claimed the team would release the browser to the public in the next few weeks. A modified version of WebKit is also on the way.

Slusallek claimed he wanted to make 3D as ubiquitous on the web as images and video, and his team have already approached the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) in the hopes of making it a standard.

"We're ready to go, the technology works," he said.

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User comments

Is this the same as VRML

I did a course at uni in 2002 programming in VRML and Java. It had a browser plug-in and sounded very similar to this.

By john_coller on 4 Mar 2010

Better use standards

VRML is 15 years old. It didn't get adopted because it required a plugin. But its successor X3D can be inlined in HTML pages and displayed in WebGL-enabled browsers (Firefox 3.7, Chrome) with a Javascript library: http://x3dom.org . There are also efforts to integrate X3D with HTML directly. WebGL and X3D are W3C standards. I think a standards-based approach is much more promising than the solution presented here, which only works in a special browser build and uses a XML dialect that nobody has ever heard of.

By bogus39 on 4 Mar 2010

Is is really "raytracing"?

The article states the rendering uses raytracing. Although there are some bleeding-edge GPU real-time raytracing techniques, this would be pretty unconventional. Is it perhaps just using standard rasterisation of triangles instead of raytracing, like every other 3D app and game out there?

By tartley on 10 Mar 2010

Some explanation

Just a note, the demonstration at CeBIT was raytraced in real time through a ray tracer developed in house called RTFact. This was basically an "in-between" step in the development of XML3D, and gave a chance to show off another project the department is working on (the real time ray tracer).

The final implementation of XML3D will run on WebGL, so no plugins or special builds are necessary. RTFact will remain a possibility to do ray tracing with XML3D, but it won't be required.

By copacetic on 5 May 2010

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