From Sat Jun 22 11:48:58 1996
Date: Sat, 22 Jun 1996 08:01:59 -0400
From: Bob Rankin 
To: Multiple recipients of list TOURBUS 
Subject: TOURBUS - 20 June 1996 - Virtual Reality

Hi All, Patrick asked me to forward this...   -Bob

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TODAY'S TOURBUS STOP    : Virtual Reality Stuff

If you are subscribed to either the advanced HTML list (ADV-HTML)
or the Roadmap96 beta test list (MAPBETA), you will have already
heard about the absolute nightmare experience I have had this week
upgrading my Apple Macintosh Powerbook from System 7.5.2 to System
7.5.3.  Just when I thought that I had fixed my problems, my
computer once again crashed. :(

So, I decided to head home to my parent's house in Decatur, Alabama
("soon to be the world's cleanest city"), so that I could use their
computer to send out today's TOURBUS ... better late than never.
Actually, I am proud to announce that besides commandeering my
parent's computer, I have also convinced my dad to guest write
today's TOURBUS post.  So, without further ado, here is my daddy:


"Hey, that's almost real!"

Virtual reality (VR).  Long the expensive toy of rich corporate
R&D departments and aspiring artists who forked over the rent money
for technology that didn't quite work, VR has managed to sneak up on
us.  It's here.  Well, almost.

No, we're not talking about inserting a network connection directly
into your brain, or even buying the latest VR body suit at the price
of a small car.  If you're willing to look through a window into the
virtual world, you can do it today.  The window is the monitor on your
computer, and the virtual world is any of literally hundreds of
virtual worlds that have sprung up thanks to Virtual Reality Modeling
Language (VRML).

These are 3-dimensional (3D) worlds that you can move through.  Where
you can bump into walls and not fall through floors.  Where objects move
and you can click on an object to visit another world.  And where you
can have an avatar (a 3D character that others can see that represents
you, but thinner and better looking) that interacts with other avatars
and with objects in the world.  You can push buttons and open doors
and hear music (that gets louder as you "walk" toward the instrument
that's playing).

You can get part of this capability on your desk today, and before the
year is out, you'll get the rest.  Here's the scorecard.  Walking through
worlds: here today.  Walls that you can't walk through: today.  Moving
objects: here today, but going to move far more interestingly tomorrow.
Avatars: here today (on a couple of experimental sites).  Objects that
react when you approach or touch them: today in a couple of applications.
Sound: probably next month.

OK, where do you get it?  Well, virtually (yuk, yuk) all the VRML
browsers use Netscape or Internet Explorer to display the world and to
handle the messy details like networking.  Some of them are plug-ins
and some are helpers, but you don't care about that.

So the first place to look is on the sites for Netscape Navigator and
Internet Explorer: and

That probably takes care of the majority of the Tourbus riders who
have graphical web browsers.  If you prefer another browser, don't
panic.  We'll have a place for you to look in a minute.

The two plug-ins (Live3D and VRML Add-In for Internet Explorer) will
get you up and running.  Even though they're free, we Tourbus tourguides
make a practice of *never* recommending specific products, except of

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Where were we?  Oh, yeah.  We aren't endorsing either product; we just
know that they'll basically work.  You may decide to stay with them, or
you may want to go to:

the immense list of VRML browsers kept at the VRML repository at the
San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC).

OK, we've found the browser, waited for hours while it downloads,
puzzled our way through the installation instructions, and finally
we're ready to use it.  Let's find some virtual worlds.  I have
a little list of my own at:

SDSC has an even larger list at:

and while hiwaay, my Internet Service Provider, has some pretty good
hardware, they don't have a building full of supercomputers.  So try
SDSC first.

If that isn't enough URLs for you, try my three favorite worlds on the
web: -- the Intel
Pentium Pro site in VRML.  I don't care if your heart beats to the
Motorola company theme song, this is a great looking site. -- you need Live3D for this one, but Len
Bullard's tribute to Kate Bush in VRML is one of the most innovative
uses of VRML I've seen. -- what can I say?  It's a hammer.
Just a hammer.  But it's gorgeous.

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     TOURBUS - (c) Copyright 1996, Patrick Crispen and Bob Rankin
 All rights reserved.  Redistribution is allowed only with permission.
     Send this copy to 3 friends and tell them to get on the Bus!

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