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Closing in on 3D Web standards

A group pushing for industry standards for 3D on the Web releases its final working draft of a key specification, bringing the technology one step closer to standardization.

A group pushing for industry standards for 3D on the Web released its final working draft of a key specification, bringing the technology one step closer to international standardization.

The Web3D Consortium (W3DC) made its draft of Extensible 3D (X3D) and an accompanying software development kit available for download and solicited comment on the specification. The technology is a descendant, expressed in XML (Extensible Markup Language), of the pioneering but ultimately unsuccessful Virtual Reality Modeling Language (VRML).

The consortium plans to submit the specification to the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) in October. X3D could follow VRML 97 in becoming an ISO standard by 2004.

The release of the final X3D draft, designed for entertainment, educational and e-commerce uses, comes as the consortium launches its second major initiative, the more industrially focused Computer Aided Design (CAD) 3D working group.

X3D co-editor and W3DC Vice President Tony Parisi said the consortium's two activities would proceed in tandem with each other, aiming for interoperability.

"They want to start with the unique requirements of CAD data, which has some unique requirements," said Parisi, president of San Francisco-based 3D start-up Media Machines. "But there's clearly a lot of overlap. We're going to sit with the CAD working group and find out where we have common ground. We can make some improvements, and they may find that they have big pieces of X3D that they want to use."

Since X3D's first release in March, Yumetech launched Xj3D, a Java-based open-source version of it. The consortium formed a Java Rendering Working Group to write APIs (application programming interfaces) that will allow Java programs to communicate with low-level 3D rendering libraries such as Direct3D and OpenGL, which are common to most operating systems. That effort could wind up competing with Sun Microsystems' Java3D technology.