Darius Lahoutifard is the CEO of Altadyn. Altadyn's products, and specially 3DXplorer, have taken a strong position in the market, specially when applied to corporate and business uses, due to the stability and robustness of the solutions they provide.
In this interview, you'll read about this interesting new concept of plugin-less 3D browser built in Java that is fully cross-platform, and also about what platforms like 3DXplorer have to offer to internet users, corporations, and businesses.
- What are the advantages of 3DXplorer compared to others?
- There are a number of primary advantages of 3DXplorer, I’ll list them and then expound on a few in more detail.
- Browser-based and plug-in-less – anyone can visit by just clicking a link
- Runs on multiple platforms and browsers: Windows, Linux, Mac, IE, Firefox, Safari and Opera.
- Support for user-generated content.
- Worlds can be imbedded in any web site.
- Programmable: 3DX provides an API to customize and extend the 3D environment for specific applications.
- Easy and affordable: 3DX is deployed with a SaaS model allowing companies to get started quickly and for free.
The first in the list above and the key advantage and differentiator is that 3DXplorer is plug-in-less, meaning that no additional software has to be installed to visit or create a 3D world right in your web browser. While being browser-based is not unique, the fact that 3DXplorer runs as a purely thin-client is unique, and we believe 3DXplorer is the only web3D technology to provide it. Further since worlds can be imbedded in any web site, it opens up the entire web to providing 3D content to anyone with a web browser and an Internet connection.
3DXplorer is Java-based so it does require that Java be installed on the user’s system, but it is estimated that over 95% or more of computers have Java installed, so for that large majority they can directly visit and create 3DXplorer worlds right in the browser by just clicking a link; nothing has to be installed, no plug-in, ActiveX control, etc. This is crucial for corporate use where firewalls and IT policies that allow installation of only certain applications. In addition, our Java architecture also enables us to support multiple platforms and browsers, whereas many other technologies run only on Windows.
3DXplorer’s focus on enabling easy access to user-generated content for 3D world creation is also very strategic to us and a key strength of 3DXplorer. While we will provide an expanding library of models in the standard library, one of the more important features of 3DX is the ability to import models created in popular 3D modeling tools like SketchUp, 3ds Max, Maya, Revit, AutoCAD, and many more. This allows the huge amount of data that already exists to be reused and/or re-purposed and extending the value of the huge amount of data that already exists. For instance, the Google 3D Warehouse alone has huge amounts of data in COLLADA format. In addition to supporting the import of data from other sources, 3DXplorer’s online studio is both free of charge and easy to use, allowing one to directly author and publish a 3DXplorer 3D scene.
I won’t go on about the business model here, but suffice it to say that free to start is a pretty compelling proposition. We charge by server traffic and our pricing structure makes it possible that a small web site might always get free use since the first level of paid use starts at over 200 visitors to a 3D world in a day.
- What advantages for world building does 3DXplorer offer?
- The top advantages are that it is easy to access and use, running online in a browser with no software to install and providing a heads up right-click interface. It’s also free to author 3D spaces, and 3DXplorer imports data from other modeling systems, as mentioned above. Regarding ease of use, you start by just going to the 3DXplorer web site and signing in. After creating a new project and then you start out in an empty world with an online studio running right in the browser. To add objects like buildings, furniture, vehicles, etc., you just right click where you want to place the object and are then presented a menu with choices of object types to add including buildings, furniture, vehicles, and so on, that you pick from and place in your scene. To change colors, textures, images, add hyperlinks and so on, it’s similar; you right-click, pick the command you want and voila. Once your scene is finished you just click to publish and generate the snippet of HTML applet code that can be imbedded in any web page. Simply visiting a web site and signing in to get access to the online studio and publishing capabilities makes it very simple for anyone to start working with web3D today.
- What would you say to someone to encourage him/her to test 3DXplorer?
- I would tell them that we are the beginning of a new 3D web -- a new online medium for communication -- that is going to create many new market opportunities and competitive advantages for those who learn how to harness it. 3DXplorer makes it easy to get started now with minimal cost, if any, and begin exploring how this technology can benefit one’s business.
Many times people envision that web3D is all about walking through imaginary 3D worlds. Indeed this is possible, but exploring 3D spaces is only a small part of it. A bigger opportunity is in enabling a new way to engage, collaborate and interact with others on the web. I tell people not to limit their thinking to only those working with 3D data, such as a home builder, an architect, furniture manufacturer and so on. Granted an application showing off 3D structures, spaces or objects is fairly obvious and a good market opportunity for many, but we believe that there is also a real opportunity for companies who don’t design or create 3D products, maybe they even offer services rather than products. The ability to create a personal storefront or lobby on your web site that anyone could visit at any time, like walking into a real store or a tradeshow booth, in which your customers and prospects could interact with you in an entertaining yet familiar and comfortable manner is really exciting as it relates to engaging, identifying and monetizing web visitors more effectively.
- Do you expect to increase the number of importable file formats, for example with X3D or LWO?
- Yes, we plan to extend the number of formats we support. Today we support 3DS and COLLADA, and VRML/X3D and a few other formats are among those being considered for the future.
- Have you thought in integrate 3DXplorer with Web2.0 services like Twitter, Facebook, etc?
- Yes, 3DXplorer will offer a very flexible and uniquely plug-in-less 3D environment for essentially any social network. Members of the community would be able to create their own spaces and grant access to their friends. Any 3DXplorer avatar is universal and can visit any other 3DXplorer world as a persistent personality, should the creator allow them access. We have a proof of concept of our Facebook integration as well as a social network based on Ning, which is under test now.
- Who do you think is your main public/users?
- For now, our primary market opportunity is with businesses and corporations, not consumers. We’re not looking to a provide a world to compete with something like Second Life, but we do see enabling companies to create their own worlds, that they control, allowing them to leverage web 3D on their terms and in a manner that can be experienced by any web site visitor by just clicking a link.
We then will target application segments with specific products. Our Meet in 3D offering available today we are enabling immersive 3D on any corporate web site. The vision is a standard link, a “Meet in 3D” button, on par with the commonly-used links such as Home, Products, Company, Contact Us, and so on. These 3D spaces would be staffed with company greeters to guide website visitors, talk to them, let them touch products -- live, in 3D. This is a relatively specific application of the technology that can be applied to many types of companies in different industries.
This application can easily be extended to virtual show rooms and galleries or virtual tours or seminars in industries like residential of commercial home building.
We also have some exciting enhancements coming soon that will open other targeted applications in the near future, so keep an eye on us and sign up for our newsletter.
- If you had to recommend several 3d worlds made with 3DXplorer, which will you name?
- I would recommend any of the featured worlds on our web site at: http://www.3dxplorer.com/i.php?p=static/13. There are lots of examples from real famous places like the Benaroya Hall in Seattle and the Sydney Opera House, to imaginary yet highly realistic worlds like those provided by our content partners Avalonn, GoWeb3D and Cube3. Check out the Picasso Gallery, Lucky Luke’s Village and the Avalonn Exposition Hall for other very nice examples. Lastly, you can see a variety of other worlds from our content partners at: http://www.3dxplorer.com/i.php?p=static/MI3D_Content_Gallery.
- What do you think that the users are searching for when they come to a virtual world?
- This question has a lot of different answers depending on the user. I think the first generation of virtual world users were looking for entertainment or social interaction, very similar to text chat rooms and now social networks. A place where they can interact with others with similar interests. Then there are others looking at them to improve communication and collaboration, and to do more business. It’s this last group of business users that represents the big opportunity for virtual worlds and web 3D. In their report titled, “Getting Real Work Done in Virtual Worlds,” Forrester Research predicts that “Within five years, the 3D Internet will be as important for work as the Web is today.” In this report they go on to say that, “Major companies and public-sector organizations — such as BP, IBM, Intel, and the US Army — are investing heavily in virtual world technologies.” These companies and organizations are looking for reduction in travel expenses and decreased carbon footprints associated with online meetings versus physical face-to-face traditional meetings. They are also looking for improved collaboration and communication between internal teams and with partners and customers. Others are looking for ways to enhance their training systems and processes. Others are looking at enhancing their web presence to grow their businesses by improving their ability to engage with web visitors and better convey the value propositions of their products and services, while also delivering higher levels of customer satisfaction with more direct and personal interaction with their customers.
- Compared to big communities like SL or ActiveWorlds, what do embeddable independent worlds offer?
- Put simply, embeddable independent worlds based on an open platform like 3DXplorer offer broader access, ease of use and flexibility. Second Life has been claiming around one million active residents, although a recent article in Information Week indicated it was down to around 500,000 active residents. Contrast this to the 1.5 billion people with access to the Internet. Imagine that any of these 1.5 billion people could just visit any web site and visit a 3D world or space by clicking a link. No software to download, no special groups or communities to join, just experience 3D in the manner intended by the company or organization that runs the web site. As for ease of use, what is easier than just clicking a link and entering. Granted you need to learn that you push this arrow to move here and move your mouse to look there, and so on, but most anyone can come up to speed fast on those basics of the user interface. It’s truly 3D for all, rather than 3D for 500,000 and shrinking. Interestingly, some call 3D web sites like these “small worlds” versus large monolithic worlds like SL, however, the reality is that the independent, imbedded approach offered by 3DXplorer actually allows for an almost infinitely scalable 3D universe. You just experience it by traversing from one space to another. This is actually quite similar to the real world where you really only experience what is in your local vicinity, so why try to put everything in one massive world?
- What are the technical improvements and new features that you wish to add in the near future?
- Our product plan is totally customer driven. Everything we develop is the result of customer requests.
We have some very exciting tools related to giving presentations , holding online meetings and collaborate which are coming soon. Suffice it to say what we will be coming is very unique and it will all run in the same browser-based, plug-in-less environment. Those interested in learning more should come sign up and create an account and they will be one of the first to see the new capabilities in action!
We will also increase graphics performance, reduce the time of loading avatars, and increase the number of avatars in a scene.
- What are Altadyn's medium term challenges and aims for 3DXplorer?
- The biggest challenge is changing the perception that web 3D and virtual worlds are not just for games and entertainment such as casual social chatting. Web 3D is a technology for doing real business on the web now. We also need to overcome the perception that 3D is hard. It’s actually quite natural, we live and work in 3D every day, online 3D is just an extension of that. Many people see it and think it is like a complex video game that takes a huge commitment to learn and use, and that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Our goal is to show companies that they can start leveraging 3D today to improve their ability to identify, engage and monetize web visitors, and they can do it without a large investment.
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