Surfing in 3D

17th February 2012 By: Karel Smrcka

These days, every personal computer (PC) has the hardware necessary for the interactive display of three- dimensional (3D) objects, and the same goes for smartphones and practically every new TV on the market. But the pleasure of actually viewing and manipulating 3D content is the exclusive preserve of hardcore PC gamers and professionals who design buildings and projects using computer- aided design software.

But this is all about to change, thanks to XML3D, an HTML extension developed by the German Research Centre for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI) and the Intel Visual Computing Institute of Saarland University.
With XML3D, Web developers will be able to develop 3D applications for any Web browser – quickly and easily. They will be able to embed 3D content in Web pages with the same ease with which they currently embed YouTube videos.

Typical applications of XML3D will include 3D configurations for cars and modular kitchens as well as interactive charts and diagrams, learning software and computer games. Theatregoers will soon be able to virtually try out various categories of seating – including the views of the stage that they offer – before they buy their tickets. Users will be able to individually design items of furniture on their desktop and then have them built and delivered. The integration of 3D imaging into standard Internet browsers will open up new markets and an exciting array of new applications. XML3D will fundamentally change how we experience the Internet.

Visualisation of Geographic Data
One area in which XML3D is already in use is the visualisation of geographic data. The DFKI and geographic information system developer Caigos are currently developing RealGIS, a system that can take geographic information from a database, process it and display it in 3D form in a standard browser. It is a bit like Google Earth, the difference being that it is directly integrated into the browser. With RealGIS, users can take interactive tours of virtual city models. They can access additional information from the Web server at the click of a mouse and even edit it if they have the necessary authorisation.

Because XML3D uses Web standards, it can easily be combined with other Internet services. For instance, it can be used to directly display global positioning system-tagged Flickr images at the relevant location in a 3D virtual city model.

Because they leverage standard Internet and browser technology, XML3D applications will be available anywhere where there is Internet connectivity and a browser is installed.

Even small and medium-sized businesses will be able to afford this technology.

Intelligent Cheese Counter
“I would like some . . . er . . . some of that one there.”

It is a common problem. That soft golden-yellow stuff at the back of the cheese counter looks so delicious and inviting, but you are too scared to order some because you do not know the name. And, even if you do, you may not know how to pronounce it correctly. All you can do is point and hope for the best. That is where the intelligent counter can help.

The intelligent cheese counter recognises the product the customer is pointing at and displays it on a screen for the customer and sales staff to see. It even provides additional information, such as the origin of the cheese or the wine that goes well with it.

The system uses a 3D camera mounted above the cheese counter which can pinpoint the target of the pointing gesture to within 2 cm. The details of the cheese are then displayed on a standard dual-display set of scales.

The intelligent cheese counter was conceived and developed at the innovative Retail Laboratory, an applied research lab operated by the DFKI and based at the headquarters of hypermarket operator GLOBUS-SB-Warenhaus, in St Wendel, Germany. The lab’s close partnership with the retail experts at GLOBUS enables its various projects to focus on the specific requirements and potential of planned SB hypermarkets and accelerates the technology transfer process.