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partial exception of QTVR. As hardware capable of handling advanced 3D graphics
becomes the norm in home PC's and other consumer durables such as digital television,
a platform for rich media will aid significantly the progress of the interfacing of virtual
reality and multimedia content, something with which traditional approaches such as
VRML have struggled.
One of the chief benefits of RM3D is that the content may be represented as graphics,
using video only where necessary for the underlying content.This enables the delivery of
`rich' content without the heavy bandwidth requirements that can often cause Web-
delivered VRML and other techniques to falter. RM3D content will be compatible with
a variety of platforms, from hi-spec mobile devices to computer gaming consoles and
digital TV boxes, as well standard Web browsers. Some of the existing players that provide
an early glimpse of the capabilities of rich media presentation include Eyematic's Shout
3D, OpenWorlds' Horizon and Sony's Blendo.
Java3D
Java3D differs from the above technologies in that it is an Application Programmer
Interface (API) rather than a language in its own right like VRML or a photographic
technique like QTVR. Its semantics are close to those of VRML, but unlike VRML,
which can be learnt and executed by non-programmers, programmes must be already be
fluent in Java in order to utilise Java3D.
Due to its power and complexity, Java3D is primarily useful for standalone applica-
tions, such as interactives in museums, and is not really suitable for Web delivery. External
skills may have to be brought in if an organisation wishes to employ this technology,
although it is more likely that such work would be outsourced to a dedicated expert,
thus depriving the organisation of the ability to update or extend a costly Java3D inter-
active in-house. Much planning and consideration must be given to such an investment
of time and resources.
OpenGL (Open Graphics Library)
Another API, OpenGL is the foremost established environment for developing
portable, interactive 2D and 3D graphics applications. Since its introduction in 1992,
OpenGL has become the industry's most widely used and supported 2D and 3D graphics
application programming interface (API), bringing thousands of applications to a wide
variety of computer platforms. OpenGL incorporates a broad palette of rendering, texture
mapping, special effects, and other powerful visualisation functions. Developers can make
use of the impressive power of OpenGL across all popular desktop and workstation plat-
forms.This platform-independence may come at a cost. As an API, OpenGL requires
dedicated hardware and software to run, and often modification will have to be made to
existing hardware such as PC graphics cards. As with Java3D, external expertise may have
to be sought.
Virtual Reality and
Display Technologies
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