Issue: Volume: 24 Issue: 7 (July 2001)

Adobe Goes 3D

Atmosphere consists of three modules. The first, Builder, is aimed at 3D content creators and Web developers. It provides a palette of 3D objects-primitives as well as architectural elements such as doors and stairways-with which users can lay out and structure a room or other 3D environment. Objects can be snapped together using connectors, so that when an object is moved or resized, all objects connected to it are correspondingly adjusted or resized. Since Atmosphere is based on Viewpoint's Media Player, models and animations created in third-party 3D applications such as Discreet's 3ds max or Alias|Wavefront's Maya can be directly imported into an Atmosphere world after being converted to Viewpoint format. Developers may also use JavaScript for including animations and sound in Atmosphere.

The second two Atmosphere modules are Browser and Community Server. Browser is a plug-in that works with either Netscape or Internet Explorer. The 5mb plug-in is free, and must be downloaded before a user can view Atmosphere content. Atmosphere Community Server is an Adobe-sponsored chat server that provides users with text-based chat, for avatar applications, for example.

Though 3D worlds might seem like a departure for Adobe, Asako Yoshimura, senior product manager for Atmosphere, demurs. She says that the new product is of a piece with other Adobe publishing tools like InDesign, with which users collect and edit disparate elements such as text and graphics. The company, Yoshimura says, simply views Web 3D as the next big publishing platform. "It's not like we're making a quantum leap. It's a natural progression."

The beta version of Atmosphere shipped this spring, and Version 1.0 is scheduled to ship this summer. Currently, the Windows version only is available, but Adobe expects to ship a Mac OS 9-compatible beta in the near future (Mac OS X comes later). Builder requires a Pentium-based machine or better, Windows 98/2000/ME, and 64mb of RAM. A price for Builder has yet to be determined. (Adobe Systems; Donelan