Remember in Jurassic Park (yes, the first one) when the little girl character sees the computer system and says something like, “This is Unix! I can do this!” and she navigates the database in 3D? (Screenshot above). Well, to me, that was pretty darn cool. I thought then, wow, this is how the future of OS’s will be like. That was around the time first web browsers began to surface as well and the future looked bright for 3D.
Fast forward to present day. Why aren’t we browsing the web on 3D? Why aren’t the Operating Systems more 3D? Where the hell is Virtual Reality that I was promised? WTF happened??? I WANT MY 3D!!!
I’ve been in the 3D world (both in academic and industry) long enough to have an opinion, and I would be very interested if someone’s done some survey or deep analysis on this. Let’s go back and check with my last blog on 3D for a framework on this discussion.
Content authoring in 3D is hard.
To incorporate 3D into feature-length films cost millions of dollars and tremendous amounts of 3D brain power (lots of expensive PhDs). 3D games also take a long time to create, lots of $ and resources, and take some very smart and experienced folks and tools. I don’t think 3D authoring will get that much easier any time soon, but as long as some people are spending enough $ and putting enough resources and brain power into this problem, shouldn’t there be enough to bring this to the mainstream?
Content distribution for 3D is hard, but getting better
We used to need to buy a set of CDs or DVDs to get the 3D content (let’s say a game) into our computers way back when. These days, pretty much everything digital is delivered via the internet — even 3D content. Google Earth and Virtual Earth both have tremendous amounts of images and 3D content, but not all need to be delivered at once. In 3D lingo, level of detail algorithms enable “on demand” content delivery. For example, if you are using Google Earth or Maps, the right images are delivered to your viewer depending on your zoom level. But still, it takes quite a bit to load a 3D city in Google Earth or Virtual Earth.
Need a 3D viewer on the web browser
No one downloads a plugin. Well, very few. And without a “standard” 3D viewer on the browser it’s still hard to see 3D content. I think Flash will change everything. 3D can be displayed using Flash 10, and although it’s got some performance limitations so far, it can bring the 3D experience to your browsers now, and much improved versions for the future. Very exciting.
3D User Experirnce (UX) is getting better
I think that one of the detrimental things that happened to 3D was that the user experience of 3D were initially done by engineers (and therefore usable only by engineers). Yeah, sure there are engineers with design chops, but that’s for some other blog. 3D UX in my opinion was hard, and I still think it’s too hard. I’ve seen a recent 3D demo by one of the big players and even he had a hard time navigating the 3D scene. I think we can get there by getting more designers in the loop (and engineers out of the loop . Think Apple.