Israeli Startup Delivers Fast 3D Graphics Through The Web

November 14, 1997

NEW YORK, N.Y. and HAIFA, ISRAEL, November 14, 1997 -- World Wide Web users will soon be able to interact with dynamic 3D virtual worlds that are unlimited in size and complexity from a PC. The new technology is the product of Virtue, Ltd. of Haifa, Israel, a spinoff company of the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology.

Until now, people could develop and use rich, 3D scenes on high-end computers, but this 3D content was far too large to either be used on typical PC's or sent across the Internet. Virtue's new products -- called Thunder and Lightning -- allow anyone from architects to Internet game players to create and interact with very complex 3D scenes over the Internet. The products will be available in beta versions in early 1998.

"The technology brings Web pages to vivid 3D life and creates a fundamental paradigm shift in Web interaction," says Virtue's President Craig Gotsman, a professor in the Technion's Faculty of Computer Science.

In addition to enriching WWW graphic capabilities, Virtue's innovative developments include "dynamic scene visibility culling," which maintains high graphics performance for dynamic scenes, as well as a new technique that allows developers to compress geometric data to half the size of the best compression techniques currently available. "The ability to compress geometric data is essential to the success of 3D graphics on the Web due to bandwidth constraints," explains Oded Sudarsky, Virtue's vice president for R&D and a doctoral candidate at the Technion.

Virtue's dynamic scene visibility culling technology also has numerous applications in a variety of other fields, including education, transportation and tourism.

"Users will be able to navigate extremely rich 3D environments," says Jeff Fayman, Virtue's vice president for product development and another doctoral candidate at the Technion, citing such examples as virtual shopping malls and trade shows. It will also enable viewing of products at different angles, as well as interaction with graphic representations of salespeople or colleagues.

Although the best performance is achieved when Thunder and Lightning are used together, this is not a requirement. Lightning is a full VRML 2.0 compliant 3D Web browser and can handle any VRML 2.0 file. Thunder, however, provides a VRML 2.0 optimizer that can dramatically speed up the downloading and rendering of the same file when used with Lightning. That means architects, for instance, can send complex models of buildings to clients, allowing them to "walk through" the building via the Internet and examine each room. Or, Internet game designers can create rich virtual scenes for other players to interact in.

Virtue's ability to make virtual reality a reality on the Web is also available to third-party producers as a set of application-programming interfaces called Virtuoso. These interfaces can be integrated into products ranging from CAD/CAM/CAE systems to computer games.

"The package boosts application performance by an order of magnitude over current systems, even those running on high-end systems," says Mr. Fayman.

The Technion-Israel Institute of Technology is the country's premier scientific and technological center for applied research and education. It commands a worldwide reputation for its pioneering work in communications, electronics, computer science, biotechnology, water-resource management, materials engineering, aerospace and medicine, among others. The majority of Israel's engineers are Technion graduates, as are most of the founders and managers of its high-tech industries. The university's 11,000 students and 700 faculty study and work in the Technion's 19 faculties and 30 research centers and institutes in Haifa.

The American Technion Society (ATS) is the university's support organization in the United States. Based in New York City with 16 satellite offices around the country, it is the leading American organization supporting higher education in Israel. The ATS has raised $632 million since its inception in 1940, half of that during the last six years. Technion societies are located in 24 countries around the world.

American Society for Technion - Israel Institute of Technology

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