Web 3-D Heats Up for Mac Users

For Macintosh users, the ability to view and navigate 3-D graphics on the Web has been more promise than reality. The Virtual Reality Modeling Language (VRML), the reigning 3-D Web standard, has failed to catch on among Macintosh or PC users. However, two companies, MetaCreations (805/566-6200, http://www.metacreations.com ) and the Sweden-based Cycore ( http://www.cycore.com ), are attempting to remedy the situation by introducing their own Web-based 3-D graphics technologies. In the meantime, an industry group called the Web3D Consortium, with support from Apple, Microsoft, and other heavyweights, is working on an official successor to VRML.

Metamorphosis

MetaCreations introduced its MetaStream technology a year ago, but the initial version, developed with cooperation from Intel, was available only for the PC. The company is now preparing a Mac version of the MetaStream player, and current Mac releases of Bryce and other MetaCreations software packages can export scenes as MetaStream content. Although you need a browser plug-in to view the content, MetaCreations scored a coup last year when Microsoft agreed to distribute MetaStream with Windows.

Formerly known as "The Visual Computing Software Company," MetaCreations now refers to itself as "The Creative Web Company." One victim of the transition is apparently chief design officer Kai Krause, who left the company in April for undisclosed reasons.

With its new focus, MetaCreations plans to offer tools that make it easier to create 3-D graphics for the Web. One of the most intriguing new programs is Canoma, a $499 package that creates 3-D environments from a series of still photographs. For example, you can use aerial photos of a city to create models of buildings that you can navigate with the MetaStream player.

At the Core

Cycore's 3-D technology, Cult3D, is aimed at electronic-commerce applications. It has two components: a Windows-based 3-D authoring package and a free cross-platform Cult3D Animation player. You don't have to pay for the design software, but you do have to pay a $3,600 licensing fee for each 3-D model you post.

Web3D

As MetaCreations and Cycore push their plug-in technologies, the Web3D Consortium ( http://www.web3d.org ), successor to the industry group that established VRML, is working on a new accredited standard for 3-D graphics on the Web. The standard, known as X3D, is based on the Extensible Markup Language (XML).

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