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July 21, 1998

CHANGES ROCK VR WORLD

By CBR Staff Writer

With virtual reality modeling language (VRML) pioneer Cosmo Software hardly cold in its grave (CI No 3,446), the VRML Consortium has opened membership to all developers of qualified software – even if it is not based on VRML. Company spokesperson Jonathan Hirshon explains that in the past, the Consortium’s VRML-only rule had led it to turn away excellent technology that met its mission in other respects. That shouldn’t have to happen any more. The Consortium plans to change its name and extend its charter to all web-based 3D technologies. There are only two conditions, said Hirshon, the technology has to be cross- platform and it has to be open, available for peer review. So is this the end for VRML? Not at all, says Hirshon, we will continue work on VRML the next generation, which we call VRML 99. We’re working very closely with the ISO on that. We are not abandoning VRML. We are expanding to include other technologies beyond it. Consortium members will vote on the proposals at a meeting in August. So far the response from both members and non- members has been positive, Hirshon says. He says he is unaware of a proposal by Cosmo parent Silicon Graphics Inc to establish a VR Experts Group, apparently a rival to the Consortium. The foundation of the experts group is all the more baffling, considering that SGI is a founding and active member of the Consortium. Weirdest of all, the SGI announcement cites lack of interoperability standards as a key barrier to mainstream acceptance of VR. But what about VRML? Hard to say, SGI didn’t return our calls.

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