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Sun, Web3D to Support Real-Time 3D

Sun Microsystems and the Web3D Consortium announced Monday that they have formed a working group to develop a binary file format encoding for X3D. The two companies said that several alternative and complementary 3D specifications exist, but each has its limitations.

X3D, the open standard for Web services-enabled 3D data and applications, is in the final stages of ratification by the International Standards Organization. Final approval is expected to help advance the compression of 3D data, which would be used in Web services and XML-based applications, and shorten the transmission time of 3D models and scenes across a network. The standard also seeks to establish a data encryption scheme to protect sensitive model information.

The groups also said X3D's encryption aspects should dovetail nicely with the World Wide Web Consortium's (W3C) XML encryption work, which would further strengthen the ongoing liaison between ISO and W3C.

Members of Web3D and Sun estimate the spec should be complete sometime in the first quarter of 2005. The groups said X3D's binary format would be open and royalty-free. So far, Sun is bragging that it leads the contributions with its advanced geometry compression technology.

Sun has a vested interest in getting the open source 3D specs up to snuff as soon as possible. The company is putting a great deal of emphasis on 3D modeling for the desktop. Last month, Sun submitted its Project Looking Glass desktop user interface and 3D Desktop Technology to the open source community under a GPL . Sun is hoping that opening its desktop alternative to Microsoft Windows will help attract developers and paying customers to its software.

"Sun sees strong market potential in enabling X3D with an advanced compression technology," Doug Twilleager, Sun chief architect of game technologies, said in a statement. "We strongly encourage interested companies to join the working group and express their commercial needs for the binary format."

The Web3D Consortium said many of its projects would benefit from the expansion of X3D's capabilities, such as the CAD Distillation Format (CDF) specification -- an X3D-based format to distill the essential elements of complex CAD and architectural data.

X3D's language-neutral Scene Authoring Interface (SAI) also allows for real-time 3D content and controls to be easily inserted into a broad range of Web and non-Web applications. Currently, 3D browser companies such as CRC, Media Machines, and Yumetech are shipping standalone X3D browsers.

Other contributors to X3D are already showing signs of success. For example, the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School MOVES Institute said it would contribute its open source XML Schema Binary Compression (XSBC) as a technical solution for X3D.

"The Web3D group said it also continues to work with the W3C Binary Characterization Working Group to develop broadly compatible compression for X3D and other XML languages," Don Brutzman of the Naval Postgraduate School MOVES Institute said in a statement.