Issue: Volume: 25 Issue: 7 (July 2002)

The Next Wave for Web 3D

These barriers include file size, level of interactivity, and back-end tracking capabilities. These are all vital but still evolving parts of the development pipeline that have kept many digital media professionals from integrating 3D into their existing workflow.

Most of the technical barriers have been solved in part and separately by individual companies. For example, Arius3D's ( imaging technology helps turn physical objects into 3D objects on the Web. Turbo Squid ( offers a virtual marketplace where artists and others can buy and sell 3D content. MindAvenue ( offers a Web authoring tool specifically for the creation and delivery of 3D animation. The company i3 Dimensions ( has developed a Web-based system for interactive visualization/simulation that allows users to view and manipulate 3D objects (such as product designs) over the Internet. Anark ( has created a content authoring tool with which users can mix 2D, 3D, and other media. And last, Viewpoint, Macromedia, and others have developed players and authoring tools for the use and creation of rich media, including 3D.

The one key component that has not yet been properly addressed is not so much a technological barrier as a business development barrier. In order for 3D to move up the evolutionary ladder in its market life cycle, these individual vendors now need to focus on establishing solid strategic alliances with one another so that isolated solutions such as those provided by these and other companies can be combined to make Web 3D easily accessible to the consumer. (At press time, Turbo Squid and Anark an nounced just such an alliance. See article on pg. 14.)
The compound annual growth rate for Web 3D through the year 2006 is 32 percent, which leads all other categories in terms of digital media tool growth.

If vendors can do this, 3D has the potential to transcend its roots in film and gaming to become a key element of mass-market digital content. As the market matures, a much broader group of Web media developers will have access to 3D tools and technology. Aside from entertainment, these content creators represent widespread market sectors such as commercial design, corporate training, general purpose Web design, and education.

M2 Research estimates that there are over 19 million digital media professionals in multiple industries using professional-level software priced at $250 or above, (such as video editing, Web authoring, 2D animation, and photo editing programs). Of these professionals and tools, the minority are focused on 3D Web development. Looking ahead a few years, however, 3D Web authoring is projected to have the strongest growth of all the professional sectors, with a compound annual growth rate of 32 percent through the year 2006.

The real potential of 3D Web content will come once companies can work together to combine the fragmented solutions they have developed into an integrated development pipeline that works within users' existing workflows.

Wanda Meloni is the principal of M2 Research, a market research firm based in California. She can be reached at