July 11, 1994
SECTION: Vol. 13 ; No. 14 ; Pg. 49; ISSN: 0738-4300
LENGTH: 522 words
HEADLINE: Roaming cyberspace, virtual reality heads want your body, too;
BYLINE: McCarthy, Shawn P.
Network browsing already consumes increasingly large chunks of our time, and
now a new coalition wants to suck in our bodies as well.
the coalition is trying to construct a Virtual Reality Markup Language. With
Internet servers that supported VRML, they say, networked participants could
"walk through" three-dimensional spaces, either on their computer screens or
wearing a full-immersion suit with stereo video goggles, earphones and a data
Only a month old, the VRML effort is picking up a full head of cyberspace
Users with browsing tools supported by the World Wide Web can find VRML
information on server space donated by Wired magazine at http://www.wired.
com/ vrml/ .
The Open Virtual Reality Testbed office at the National Institute of
Standards and Technology is "listening in" on VRML discussions, said its
director, Sandy Ressler.
His lab is experimenting with ways to let users travel networks by viewing
objects and bringing them back to a virtual office.
The NIST server at http://nemo.ncsl. nist.gov/ can be a starting point to
link to information on virtual reality studies by NIST, the Army Research
Institute, the Naval Postgraduate School and NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.
The VRML effort "isn't anything official," Ressler said. "It hasn't even
reached the request for comment stage yet. But it's something that is needed."
Even the hypertext markup language (HTML) and the hypertext transport
protocol (HTTP), both used on the World Wide Web portion of the Internet in
browsing tools, haven't yet completed the request for comment process set up by
the Internet Activities Board.
However, the two protocols, which make hot links between text, graphics,
sound files and video clips on widely separated systems, already are used widely
enough to account for a third of all Internet traffic today.
Efforts to expand the Web and its browsers to include 3-D walk-through
spaces have been influenced by the work of David Raggett of Hewlett-Packard Co.
He is trying to build a proof-of-concept application, and Raggett supporters and
others who got organized at the recent WWW '94 conference in Geneva have
published documents on the Wired server.
Their biggest problem will be realism. To reduce network traffic for
face-to-face virtual meetings, screen models of fixed "skulls" could be used
with video faces overlaid on them.
That would take up less bandwidth than today's networked video windows.
Other ideas include landscape models that are cached for future use. A decade
ago, science fiction writer William Gibson fleshed out the idea of cyberspace,
where people walked in and experienced many different worlds. Who'd have thought
it would begin to happen in our lifetime?
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