A glance @ '09 and a look ahead.

So it's 2010! The '00s are over and one doesn't need to be a historian from the future to see the Web has changed humanity and the world in the past decade in a way we are still trying to understand. There is a whole generation now that only knows life with the Internet, web2.0 is evolving, social networks are the new digital countries, cyber life to a growing number is as important as the real, and ignorance has become an option as people are able to connect, share, and access information about anything at the click of a button.

For ten years I have experienced technology ever increasing in our daily routines and watched 3D on the Web become more common place with multi-user environments, games, digital globes, and more. Google Earth, Second Life, World of Warcraft, and the like have made this an exciting past decade of web3D and other mixed reality technologies for sure. To keep this post short, let's look at some of the highlights from the previous year.

Augmented Reality - Adding a layer of digital information over the real was one of the hottest trends in '09 with a shlew of entertaining apps, great AR focused events, growing community interest and blogging. iPhone / Android mobile apps and web-based advertising applications really helped bring this decades old technology to the mainstream. Showing POIs (points of interest) seemed the biggest craze in mobile AR helping people find such things as subway information, Tweets, wiki info, and a variety of other layered information. Some of my personal favorites from '09 were Junaio, Yelp, Urbanspoon, and LAYAR.

I expect the AR explosion in 2010 to continue with more mobile POI apps (to the point of saturation), more showing 2D/3D geo-located objects, and definitely more location aware games. The number of AR companies opening or developing platforms that will allow for user created content like Neogence's Mirascape will grow. I also expect to see serious applications for AR, more AR focused start-ups, and more interest in 'standards' for AR browsers.


BIM (Building Information Modeling) - The architecture, design, and building communities have really begun to move towards the use of 3D, real-time, dynamic building modeling software to increase productivity in building design and construction. These 3D BIM models assist in the process of generating and managing building data during its life cycle which encompasses building geometry, spatial relationships, geographic information, and properties of building components.

In 2010, more firms and builders will design and plan with these virtual models as it does save money, time, materials, and adds multiple layers of efficiency. I expect to see more integration of BIM with web3D technologies like virtual
worlds, gaming platforms, and augmented reality.

Unity 3D - THE game authoring tool of '09, Unity 3D redefined the gaming industry. The engine, that works on both Mac and PC, allows developers to publish to Web, iPhone, and Wii.
With easily over 18 million player installs, it has become the platform for web games including Cartoon Network's Fusion Fall, mobile games (several of the top ten on iPhone), and a growing number of virtual worlds.

I know from talking with Unity folks there will be more mobile platforms and consoles to publish to available this year. I also expect to see more Unity 'worlds' that are not focused on gaming. At a past event, their CEO stated that 1/3 of the people that downloaded the tool used it for something other than gaming. Another prediction I have for Unity is seeing it as an augmented reality player. I expect to see great things from them this year and perhaps participate in some exciting announcements.

HTML5 - the next revision for the markup language of the World Wide Web. HTML5 aims to 'reduce' the need for proprietary plug-ins like Adobe Flash and Microsoft Silverlight. This has generated quite the buzz and it is still years out for final spec status. Great examples appeared throughout '09 including one of my favorites from 9elements. This example may require you get an updated player but its worth it.

HTML5 introduces a number of new elements (e.g.audio, video,canvas) and will allow web developers the ability to make amazing web applications and sites with functionality we see with 'Flash-like' sites without the need for such a plug-in. I expect to see more examples and websites of HTML5 using the new elements and 3D content. This leads to the following:

TRUE 3D WEB - Two of the most exciting announcements in 2009 for me were X3Dom and WebGL. These technologies will proliferate the open 3D Web and allow for what so many geeks have wanted for so long, hardware-accelerated 3D running natively in a web browser.

X3Dom is a system that allows for web pages and applications to use interactive 3D content (X3D) that is hardware-accelerated via WebGL to run in the browser no-plug in needed. The video below shows an interactive animated World of Warcraft character being displayed in the Chrome browser minus any additional plug-in for viewing.



WebGL is a low-level API to display hardware-accelerated 3D graphics in webpages on any platform supporting OpenGL 2.0 or OpenGL ES 2.0. Originally initiated by Mozilla as Canvas 3D, WebGL is now being developed by the Khronos WebGL group. For this year I expect to see more use cases from Khronos with WebGL and COLLADA, and definitely more examples of WebGL and other 3D technologies.

Avatar the movie - Besides the fact that this movie rocked and had amazing CG, the tools and technologies behind how this movie was made are revolutionary. One example being the virtual camera system. This system is a new way of directing motion-capture film making that displays the actor's virtual character in the digital scene in real-time. This allows the director the ability to adjust and direct as if shooting live. The video below is of a virtual camera system I played with at the Autodesk Design Center awhile back. Motion sensors on the camera are read by motion detectors in the corners of the room to display a corresponding viewpoint into the digital scene.


Thanks again 2000s for all the tech you spawned. I am excited to see how the innovation that started then continues to evolve the Tech Generation in the new year and decade.

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