The third dimension isn’t just a Hollywood contrivance for repackaging old movies–it’s cropping up in everything from tablet computers to museum exhibits to Web design.
Augmented reality just got a bigger screen, thanks to this glasses-free 3d iPad application:
Meanwhile, the world’s largest museum is poised to create 3d virtual–but printable–versions of its physical treasures.
“With just 2 percent of the Smithsonian’s archive of 137 million items available to the public at any one time, an effort is under way at the world’s largest museum and research institution to adopt 3D tools to expand its reach around the country. CNET has learned that the Smithsonian has a new initiative to create a series of 3D-printed models, exhibits, and scientific replicas — as well as to generate a new digital archive of 3D models of many of the physical objects in its collection….They’ve got technology on their side —with minimally invasive laser scanners they can capture the geometry of just about any object or site with accuracy down to the micron level.”
It’s unclear whether three will ever be the right number of dimensions for a Web “page,” but that hasn’t stopped intrepid designers from trying out shiny new 3d CSS styles.
To see the 3-D in action you’ll need to be using a WebKit browser (Safari or Chrome), though the site nicely degrades to a still very readable state for Firefox and other browsers that don’t yet support the 3-D rules coming to CSS. To get the full 3-D effect be sure to scroll down the page.
E-commerce entrepreneurs can already smell the money to be made from interactive “display models”:
Compared to computer games, movies and professional graphics tools the amount of 3D rendered, interactive web content is still rather minimal these days. When we shop online (e.g. deciding if we want to buy a new camera) we often get to see some photographs from pre-set perspectives. In better cases there is a 360 degree view available that has been built out of photographs, but lacks any sort of interactivity with the object and might not provide the required details.
With HTML5 and WebGL there is an opportunity to enrich the web with 3D content. However, for a regular web designer it is rather hard to get interactive 3D models integrated into their webpage and have them viewable across the compute continuum (from high-end workstation machines to mobile phones) due to the coding complexity and inability of the same code to work across different compute devices. This is where XML3D will likely play an important role in the future. It is an extension of HTML5 developed by the Intel Visual Computing Institute*, DFKI and the Saarland University under the lead of Kristian Sons.