Interview: John A. Stewart - X3DOM: X3D And HTML 5

As announced in the article "The Best For 2010 In 3D And Virtual Worlds", Web3D Consortium and the World Wide Web Consortium  are working to integrate HTML 5 with X3D.

Together, they are exploring different ways to join the 2D and the 3D standards, and this may mean a big change in Internet.


World Of Warcraft and X3D

For anyone that has a website, this means having an easy to use 3D language to visualize 3D inside pages that is not harder than HTML to learn.

This will suppose a renaissance for X3D and converted VRML worlds, and may be a huge adoption of X3D by the masses.

X3D was designed to become a standard for 3D visualization and immersive 3D worlds in web pages, and many people would agree that this integration into HTML 5 is a must. We have been waiting for this for many years, and now it's taking shape.

John Alexander Stewart has been a part of the computing scene since the early '80s. He has worked for various companies and organizations in Canada, New Zealand and Europe.
The second most fun he has had while working was to be the "daily duty manager" of Canada's Defence network, the DREnet, and he managed the transition from ARPAnet to the Internet; and was part of the initial group that allocated and handed out initial ".ca" domains. The most fun has been working with 3D graphics; both in terms of networking and display. Currently he is employed by the Communications Research Centre in Ottawa, Canada as  a Team Leader for Networked Virtual and Augmented Reality.

This interview is a first step to know what's going on and what will be in the near future.


- Who is behind the X3DOM project (organizations, people, volunteers)?

- First, Web3D Consortium, the keepers of the X3D series of protocols, has various working groups. One of these is the HTML Integration Group, which currently contains a handful of people from governments, industry, and academia. One of these members is actively developing the X3DOM implementation. The core group, in alphabetical order, is:

Dr. Johannes Behr, Fraunhofer-Gesellshaft, Germany;
Dr. Don Brutzman, Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey California;
Leonard Daly, Daly Realism, Inc.;
Anita Havelle, Executive Director of the Web3D Consortium;
Peter Shickel, BitManagement Software GmbH, Germany;
John Stewart, Communications Research Centre, Canada;
Joe Williams; HyperMultiMedia.com

As you can see, we have a diverse mixture of professions.  We feel that this is important, as X3D is targeted to a diverse audience.

Volunteers?  While there are lots of volunteers helping to ensure that X3D continues to be the 3D markup language of choice for many application areas, we are all Web3D Consortium members, because that membership allows us to participate in the W3C HTML5 working group.

The X3DOM (pronounced "x-freedom") is a project spearheaded by Dr. Behr of Fraunhofer. It explores the bounds and limits and efficiencies of what our working group is developing. It is a Javascript implementation running over WebGL; soon Dr. Behr's team will have it running over O3D.
Whether X3DOM is the final solution or not is up for debate; while it is an impressive piece of software, it is showing some of the boundary issues associated with integrating Javascript, WebGL, and O3D; issues that may be better resolved with other technologies, such as a native interface (non-scripting) running directly into an OpenGL or Direct-X canvas.

Nuli Ibrahim Virtual Worlds
Nuli Ibrahim Virtual Worlds

- When you say that X3DOM is for getting "x3d integrated directly into html5", does this mean that X3D may become a part of HTML and then supported by default by any browser supporting HTML 5?

- We are working with the HTML5 working group; and there are broad issues that they have to solve regarding extensibility. Which ever way they choose, we are ready to work with the W3C and HTML browser vendors to best integrate X3D and HTML.
The X3DOM project shows one implementation; the FreeWRL team (which I lead) are actively working on WebKit integration; and there are other projects afoot.
When browsers support HTML5 is up to the vendors.

- I have seen and tested implementations of X3DOM in Chrome and Firefox 3.7a. As Firefox is now in version 3.5, with 3.6 in release candidate, the project seems to be coming really soon. When do you expect it to be supported by Firefox in a public release?

-The X3DOM implementation is really interesting; all it requires is Javascript, and WebGL, and soon O3D, so it can run in any browser that correctly supports Javascript and WebGL/O3D.

- Will this integration of X3D into HTML5 be compatible with proprietary plugins or open source plugins for X3D?

- First, 3D is happening; how X3D actually fits is dependent on a few HTML/W3C decisions, so definitively answering your question is hard at this time, so let me give you a few thoughts.
X3D is a vendor and technology neutral 3D rendering and runtime environment. We do not favour one vendor, or technology over another; the X3D specifications are ISO standards and are freely available for download and comments on the Web3D Consortium's web site. There is no hidden "money trail"; we endeavour to keep the final specifications in the open.
Open Source is very important for the Web3D Consortium's X3D efforts. As mentioned above, I manage the FreeWRL project; we are actively working on multiple fronts; two of which are increasing our platform base, and improving HTML browser integration. The X3DOM Javascript-based browser operates under the same goals, but using differing technologies than the norm.

Bernd Heilenz (Erny), Awesome VRML Worldbuilder

Bernd Heilenz 3D world

- How will the browser decide to use one or another?

- This is an intuitive question! Dr Behr's X3DOM team are working through this; currently, if a browser is installed via a plugin, it is expected that it will have better performance, and a more complete X3D implementation. So, X3DOM is a lower performance fallback; should a user wish better performance (or, lower power consumption) she can install a native plugin.
I see that X3DOM is not the only project to integrate X3D into HTML 5,  so I think that now we can center in your work with FreeWRL, so to start please answer:

- How will your project, FreeWRL, contribute to the support of X3D in HTML5?

- As one of the goals of our working group, we wish to "kick start" X3D support. We have Dr. Behr's group at Fraunhofer working on the X3DOM  implementation; the FreeWRL development team are working on providing a library for X3D support for Webkit and Firefox open-source browsers. This is a medium-term project; we are completing our cross-platform support which will be necessary for the HTML5 integration.
It will be interesting to see how the differing types of implementations work; we expect that a library written in native code will render much faster, but that remains to be seen.
I think that once users can use Javascript, X3D, WebGL, O3D or whatever, then we as a 3D graphics community will be able to cut through the marketing hype and interesting stuff will start to happen.
The book is currently being written with regards to HTML5, X3D and FreeWRL. With FreeWRL, we are looking at different ways of including it with HTML browsers.  We would like to be able to have it linked in directly to HTML5 -compatible browsers, if not, we would like it to be a WebKit plugin, and have it bind as tightly as possible to the HTML5 browser.

-Jordi R. Cardona-


© 2008 by Jordi R. Cardona. Link to this post without copying the text.

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