It's not an exciting name I know. The sort only a mother could love. But .NET 3.5 SP1 promises to shake up quite a lot in online delivery of rich assets.
.NET 3.5 is a Windows component that installs, amongst other things, the WIndows Presentation Foundation, which Turning the Pages relies on for it's 3D version. It turns your PC into one capable of stunningly realistic 3D rendering right in the browser (Firefox and IE) without plugins.
Three things leap out at me:
- improved speed of startup and execution, so your apps, either as xbaps in a browser or executables will run quicker and things like animations will be smoother. Plus a load screen for xbaps (hooray...)
- cooler 3d effects like improved shaders and the ability to have interactive 2d elements on a 3d surface. More realism, more options.
- a lightweight and intelligent client-side installer that can be bundled with an app. This will be about the size of an Adobe Acrobat install, so now for clients with XP (ie no .NET 3+) we can just run the installer when they go to the app for the first time and they're done in a few minutes
The very wonderful and altogether English Tim Sneath over at Microsoft has a great post on it all here.
So why is all this so important?
Most clients I am speaking to have now figured out 2d digitisation, even if they haven't got too far with it. 3d digitisation is the next frontier. Photogrammetry or laser scanning of objects has been happening in a sporadic way in cultural organisations for a while, but without a compelling way of surfacing this content, why would you press on spending time and money in this area?
If you could scan and then publish with a simple production pathway, knowing that 95% of people could view the content at great quality you might think seriously about that collection of fossils or sarcophagi or sculpture.
Some people we know who are pushing forward great work in this area are 3DVisa, based at Kings College London. There's also an interesting-looking conference in the autumn which could be very timely.
2009 might just be the year of 3d in the browser.