The goal in the e-commerce domain is to develop 3D virtual reality models of individual stores and extensive, multi-level shopping malls. The geometric models would look as much as possible like actual stores and malls including exterior facade, interior walls, floors, ceilings, lighting and, of course, display shelves stocked with 3D models of the products available for sale.
The goal in the science and engineering domain is to develop Web-based 3D virtual reality models of large, expensive structures such as ships, undersea habitats, skyscrapers, Mars colonies, and space stations. The geometric models would be sufficiently complete and accurate to support both design visualization and, when used in stand-alone mode, design analysis such as weight estimation, volumetric and moment of inertia calculations, structural analysis, and 3D piping and electric cable routing, to name just a few examples.
The goal in the client-side systems domain is to develop and popularize a new breed of graphical user interface based on 3D virtual reality. The current 2D iconic "desktop" is to be replaced by a virtual office, studio, shop, or other realistic representation of a physical environment natural for the task being performed by the application program.
For Web pages, the current 2D image-based Web page is to be superseded by a realistic representation of a home, factory, government or commercial office building, or other physical structure representative of the site.
For both application interface and Web page, the 3D virtual reality model includes a realistic exterior facade, interior walls, floors, ceilings, and lighting. These form an arrangement of rooms, which serve to guide the user's navigation to the desired software functionality. Within these rooms, outfit and furnishings provide the functional interface to the user such as file cabinets or shelves containing documents, models of juke boxes or other audio equipment for playing sound clips, models of projection displays for viewing videos, etc. In all cases the models will be controlled and will produce results in a manner as similar to their real-life counterparts as possible.
This software should permit rapid generation of the interior and exterior geometric model of a complete shopping mall (domain #1), ship or skyscraper (domain #2), or home or office building (domain #3) with an average of 3-5 days of effort. This includes the basic geometric model of each and every interior room of a large skyscraper or compartment of a large ship, thus forming a "Compartmentalized Model".
Creation and layout of the outfit and furnishings (shelves, file cabinets, etc.) will at first require significantly more time, but will eventually be accomplished much more rapidly as libraries of standard 3D outfit and furnishings components become available. Format standards need to be specified and widely adopted to ensure the library components are compatible with the compartmentalized models which will geometrically encompass the library components in an completed scene.
A critical companion technology to the software for rapid generation of the geometric compartmentalized models is software for easy and responsive navigation of the 3D virtual reality scenes.
Software for generation of 3D models of ships and buildings exists today. However, the software itself is expensive, and the time and cost required to generate such models using it is prohibitive for widespread use in tasks such as personal Web pages. This is particularly true with regard to the task of rapid creation of geometric models for each and every interior room or compartment in addition to a complete model of the exterior of the structure.
Software technology suitable for rapidly generating 3D models of individual components exists today. What is lacking is (1) integration of this software with that for rapid generation of the building or other structure to contain these smaller models (since the latter does not yet exist), and (2) sufficiently extensive libraries of the necessary 3D models in a format compatible with the compartmentalized model.
Software for navigating Web-compatible 3D scenes of compartmented structures exists today in the form of VRML (Virtual Reality Modeling Language) browsers. However, these VRML browsers offer generally sluggish response when the size of the scene becomes moderately large, and would be totally overwhelmed by a VRML model of a complete ship or skyscraper. Even for scenes of modest size which they can handle, the mechanics of moving or navigating through the scene is cumbersome and awkward, and would quickly discourage the average user. Assuming rapid generation of the goal 3D scenes is achieved, these 3D models would be nearly useless without better 3D browser technology for viewing them.