3D Web for everyone?

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.

XML3D enables a web developer to easily integrate 3D content into the web browser and to be able to use existing programming languages like JavaScript to interact with them. If for example a web designer would want to display a triangle, he would just add code like this:


<xml3d:int name=”index”>0 1 2</xml3d:int>

<xml3d:float3 name=”position”>0.0 0.0 0.0   1.0 0.0 0.0    0.0 1.0 0.0</xml3d:float3>


Of course the full language offers much more like translating, rotating, scaling, materials, grouping, camera changes, dynamic manipulations etc.

One interesting aspect of XML3D is that is never forces a certain rendering algorithm. Therefore on a high-end workstation a higher quality, ray traced image could be calculated. Other devices could use WebGL or a completely different renderer for displaying the content.

The way to enable XML3D to the masses is not by a browser plug-in, but by defining it as a standard in the World Wide Web Consortiums (W3C) and to have it natively supported in the browser. A modified Firefox and Google Chromium version can be downloaded from XML3D website and experimented with. Let us know what you think. What are your thoughts on 3D in the browser? Where would you desire it the most? What new possibilities might arise with this? Tell us your opinion in our comment section.

Also we would be happy to welcome you at our booth at CeBIT 2012 in Hall 26, booth F34 and show you a live demo of XML3D.


* “Intel Visual Computing Institute” is a collaborative research institute at Saarland University co-funded by Intel

6 Responses to 3D Web for everyone?

  1. I fully support adding 3D more directly to the DOM, but why on earth would you wrap it up in a convoluted XML structure? Your site shows: designers will just export from their preferred 3D modeler anyhow. Nobody is going to be editing that stuff by hand. Instead of using efficient array buffers, you’ve got a serialized structure that turns 48 bytes of numbers into 128 characters of XML bloat. I’m getting XSLT flashbacks.

    You also imply that something like XML 3D is required to allow JavaScript to manipulate 3D content. This is obviously wrong, as WebGL and libraries like Three.js already demonstrate. And they do it without using serialized strings of numbers that store 48 bytes of binary data as 120+ characters with decimal rounding errors.

    Have you talked to anyone who is actually doing 3D on the web, today?

  2. Steve says:

    We have been successfully using 3D technology to provide a ‘virtual representation’ of our products since 2001, with great success. Having configurable 3D models available that customers can download and use in their designs makes our products much more understandable, and saves a lot of design time for customers as well. Each month, our customers download more than 100,000 3D CAD models, and thousands more view a 3D representation of our products online.

  3. fitness says:

    Hey there! Do you know if they make any plugins to safeguard against hackers? I’m kinda paranoid about losing everything I’ve worked hard on. Any suggestions?