Dassault Systemes & Microsoft aim at Google 3D Warehouse

The other big news today: France’s Dassault Systemes launched 3DVIA, “a powerful platform for partners to deliver unique 3D experiences to all kinds of online communities in the consumer and professional arena” (press release), and then announced it is putting the underlying technology to work right away to build a competitor to Google’s 3D Warehouse, for Microsoft Virtual Earth 3D:

Combining Microsoft’s geolocalization technology with DS’s proven 3-D modeling and realistic visualization know-how, this [MSFT-DS] alliance will enable consumers to add an entirely new level of realism within Virtual Earth, providing an unrestricted freedom for creativity and innovation. (press release)

Explains Chairman and Chief Executive Bernard Charles to Reuters:

We want to do the 3D Flickr.

That’s nothing if not ambitious. And how is all the metadata going to be managed? By creating a new 3D XML specification and player, called, er, 3D XML. In the announcement from two weeks ago, 3D XML is called a “universal, lightweight XML-based format”.

Universal is good, so I headed over to 3DVIA to check out the 3D model of the iPhone. It turns out that the 3D XML player is Windows only, but luckily 3DVIA also supports the 3D Life Player, which works on the Mac. There is even some code to paste to show off 3D on any website, so let’s test it here:

For Macs:

For PCs:

(Does the Mac viewer make your browser unstable? Also, I wish I didn’t have to provide both viewing options manually.)

All in all, I’ve come away impressed — for example, it supports the importing of all manner of formats (though not SketchUp’s native format). There is much more that we’ll need to figure out — such as, how open and expandable is the metadata format, and will it meet Avi Bar-Ze’ev’s requirements/wishlist for a semantic 3D web? Avi from a year ago:

What we really need is a new language of object representation that encapsulates and preserves form and function, aesthetics, style, meaning, and behavior, all tightly coupled and never discarded in the “art pipeline” until the object is finally rendered on your screen.

This certainly looks like a step in that direction.

10 thoughts on “Dassault Systemes & Microsoft aim at Google 3D Warehouse”

  1. Actually, Dassault released the 3DXML standard over a year ago, and was (I believe) first supported in CATIA V5 for exporting static geometry. The 3DXML viewer interface is pretty similar to CATIA (at least the Product tree and navigation controls).

    The last time I checked, 3DXML export is pretty much only supported in Dassault products (SolidWorks, CATIA, DELMIA, and Virtools).

    From what I’ve seen of the format, it’s actually a combination of two proprietary formats for encoding the model geometry, and the XML part is just a manner of encapsulating some metadata with the models…

    Article about how un-open 3DXML is


  2. Considering the size of some of those objects (1.3M for the iphone, 50k polygons), adding a little useful metadata should be easy — but no one really does it. Nor do they build objects up from reusable parts or standard material descriptors, except when it’s part of their project, e.g., an industrial designer labeling different parts for manufacture.

    The biggest problem is scalability of objects. It’ll have to be a more parametric representation for this to really work. 50k polygons might be fine on a PS3 or high end PC, but it won’t run on a cell phone. And 100 of them at once on some laptops will start a fire.

    What I don’t get is why create a new 3D format that’s no better than the old one? Maybe that’s what Microsoft liked about them.

  3. The 3D printscreen utility, free from Dassault website, captures models from Sketchup, Google Earth, almost any modelling software, almost any game, any DirectX or OpenGL, and writes it all to 3DXML files. The problem is that there is no software available to edit or convert 3DXML files.

    Please tell me if I’m wrong.

  4. why not just use collada which is already a well-established XML format for 3D? It’s so easy you can write your models by hand if you have the patience. This sounds like nonsense to me.

  5. also — there’s also a good parser already for collada scenes in papervision/away3d, which means this can all be done w/o the overhead of any plug-in beyond Flash 9 Player; anyone who wants to get together to build “Flickr in 3D” via away3d, and has the chops, email me.

  6. Why bother starting another competing format?

    Because the other formats are too open, and can’t be controlled by Microsoft, that’s why.

  7. It’s an obvious MS play. Soak-up another technology that does a good job at leeching/converting from a competitive source — tweek it a little to fit their paradigm, and there you go.

    In other words — I see this as more of a bad PR thing in the long-run for MS. Where SketchUp / GE / 3D Warehouse users are generally more original in their work, and share to the Warehouse. What will probably happen, is that this technology will ‘inadvertantly’ encourage model leeching into VE, which in turn will just look bad all the way around.

    How should Google proceed to deal with that? Simple. Reevaluate their TOU of 3D Warehouse and ensure that they can go after anyone leeching models and porting them to VE. Where that would get ‘sticky’ though, is if it’s a model creator who wants to submit to both warehouses, and its their own design.

  8. Yeah, but how to protect an XML-based 3D format? 3D files are the only thing simpler than text files; there isn’t even any font data, just vertices, uv maps and material refs. Let them embed their models in some new format and package the only reader in windows — I can’t remember the last time I had an urgent need to view a 3D phone in my web browser, or rotate a pizza I was ordering online. This smacks of the same kind of idiocy that drove all the vrml hype back in ’95/’96, and look where that got us. The more money microsoft pours down the toilet, the happier I am, personally; so I say godspeed this endeavor…

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