From January 2012 people with little or no technical skills will be able to create stereoscopic 3D virtual world based websites using a new tool called Orbcreation.
Orbcreation is aimed at individuals and small businesses who want to make their own websites that can stand out from the crowd. Their product is a range of themed templates and inserts that will enable the webmaster to create their own Second Life style 3D website, which can either be a room with information displayed, an office building, a shopping mall or even an entire virtual world. For example, rather than publishing several videos on a regular website page, the user could use Orbcreation to present the videos on a 3D video wall. At the click of an icon, the website can be converted into stereoscopic 3D.
It has been built by Richard Knol who has been developing and creating complex programmes for many years. 3D Focus exclusively spoke to Richard Knol about Orbcreation asking how it is different to Second Life, how he intends to monetise the service and what plans he has for the future…
3D Focus: Can you give us a brief overview of Orbcreation?
Richard Knol: Orbcreation is about giving people the ability to create 3D worlds. These worlds could be a simple room with information/images on the walls, an office building, a shopping mall or an entire virtual world with trees, flowers and butterflies flying around.
The purpose of these worlds is to give people a different perspective on the ideas or information. Website owners will be able to present their content differently to the standard "2D webpage, click to view the next page" style we all know. They are visually stimulating, interesting and a great way to showcase or feature something special.
You will be able to create an entire website in 3D but we think it will be more appealing to add or merge a 3D world with existing websites.
3D Focus: What is your background?
Richard Knol: I run a company that provides reservation services for golfers. This company generates the income that allows me to do more challenging activities that I really enjoy doing, which currently is "setting up an online tool where people can create their own 3D web world".
3D Focus: Some of the features of Orbcreation sound like they are already available in Second Life. How is this different?
Richard Knol: The main difference is that Orbcreation will run in your own Internet browser. People will visit your end products like they visit a website, whereas in Second Life people lead a "second life" and stay within the environment.
I think the really unique aspect of Orbcreation is that the visitors of your website become an active part of the website itself. They can interact with other visitors or indeed any person who connects in the 3D area. For example, an art gallery could have a curator to interact with visitors or a shop could have a sales person; that’s something really pioneering. You can interact with a number of people in the room and have a group discussion via a chat window.
3D Focus: There are several website building packages available for the 2D world complete with templates and functionality add-ons. Would you say Orbcreation is the 3D version of one of those?
Richard Knol: No. This new service is a product in its own right. Our goal is to make building 3D websites and 3D worlds as easy as it gets. You select components (or 'orblets' as we call them) and add them to your world. You drag them to their location, set a few properties like the colour or the image/video to show and that's all there is to it. We are not going to create something that will give you every possible feature, because we would end up with an online version of 3DS Max or Maya that no one will be able to use. The key is simplicity.
3D Focus: You said that this will be easy enough for your mother to use. How have you achieved this?
Richard Knol: One of the main objectives was to simplify the complexity. It has resulted in something similar to a drag and drop interface. For example, you can add a video screen to your world from the list of orblets, specify the URL of the movie to play and there you go.
3D Focus: What will you be launching from day one in January?
Richard Knol: From day one people will be able to create web worlds by using the standard components we have available. There are buildings, terrains, basic building blocks, furniture, displays for video images or text, and lots more. There will also be cool items like flags that you can display images on and butterflies that all behave independently.
When you have finished building, you will receive a .zip archive from us to host it yourself or we can host it for you for a small fee. Soon after the launch we will add the ability to upload 3D models that you have created yourself. These will be added to the Orblet library and you will be able to sell them to others earning revenue for yourself. It is certainly going to evolve and develop and we love that concept; people will be able to create with us.
3D Focus: Let's say there were 50 people in a room that had created by your system, will those other avatars have needed to download special software to be part of that room?
Richard Knol: Orbcreation was built with the game engine Unity. The users will all need to install the Unity web player. Luckily Unity is used in a lot of games and many people already have it installed (over 60 million). The Unity developers have also successfully ported their platform to Adobe Flash. When this is released we will also provide a Flash version and target a much larger audience. However, the Unity web player will always run faster and load faster so if people have the Unity web player installed we will automatically hand them the more native Unity version. We want to make this as seamless as possible. You visit a website, end up in a 3D world, nothing to it, no big deal, but it's so incredibly cool.
3D Focus: Would those avatars be able to chat to each other? Let’s say they share the same interest, could they chat about the virtual world they are in?
Richard Knol: Right now we support text chat. They can send public and private messages. At the Unity conference in San Francisco we (the developers) were told that in the next Unity version they will offer access to the microphone and webcam. This will open up the possibility to support voice and video.
3D Focus: Will Orbcreation be compatible with iphones and ipads?
Richard Knol: Unfortunately not. The Unity web player is only available for desktop computers. When the Flash export feature arrives it might work on some Android phones and tablets, but Adobe has already announced that they will not be putting much effort into mobile platforms anymore. In any case the visual impact of 3D images can be ‘lost’ on smaller screens. It’s a bit like watching a movie like Avatar on your iPhone, a bit pointless!
3D Focus: Why is the world ready for this now?
Richard Knol: The computers are now powerful enough and the technology is available. The weird thing is that you have the game developers that produce awesome graphics with real time shadows, special lighting and everything you can think of. And there are the Web designers on the other hand who are limited to HTML, Flash and static images. The only thing we did was combine the two. I guess it was just having the vision.
3D Focus: How do you intend to monetise this?
Richard Knol: When you build your world, you construct it with orblets. Many of these orblets are free and some of them will cost a small amount of money (around $1 or $2). When you are ready you can either receive all of the files and host it yourself or we can do that for you. If you want multi user support we can host that for you for a fee, but this will also only cost a small amount.
3D Focus: Would every website owner’s Orb be part of a global world?
Richard Knol: Right now everyone will have their own world or orb as we call it. It will however be relatively simple to combine the worlds in some type of grid and allow people to travel between them via hyperlinks.
3D Focus: What is your longer term strategy?
Richard Knol: Our strategy is to target individual people that want to create their ideas or dreams and share them with others plus we will target small companies that want to stand out and offer something totally different. The orblet library will grow steadily, especially when we add the option to upload your own 3D models. People can get a model from websites like turbosquid.com, upload it and put it in their world.
3D Focus: Will people’s Orbs be available to view in stereoscopic 3D?
Richard Knol: Yes, there is a checkbox you can click in the general settings of your world when you are building it. If switched on, people will get a 3D goggles icon in the bottom of their screens and they can enjoy the world in anaglyph 3D. We may add other 3D viewing options in the future, but it all depends on the developments in hardware and the support for it by Unity. The most important thing is that we support the double camera that you need for stereoscopic viewing.
Orbcreation is set to launch mid January 2012. In the mean time, orbcreation are treating potential users with a series of ‘experiences’ which show the scope of this technology. You can find out more by visiting www.orbcreation.com
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