The Latest

Blaxxun announced their return to the browser and tools arena with the release of Community Client 3D (CC3D) VRML 2.0 viewer. Based on GL-View, the browser is implemented as an ActiveX control--you choose either the Direct3D or OpenGL version. The first release works only with Internet Explorer, but a Navigator version should be out by the time you read this, and Blaxxun plans to integrate the browser with the standards worked out by Intervista/Microsoft and Cosmo Software. Blaxxun claims that CC3D's optimizations provide "speed comparable to the best game engines on the market." CCPro, the multiuser plug-in that accompanies the viewer, lets you engineer your own avatar; Blaxxun provides the only multiuser forums open to any VRML avatar. For those with ancient browsers, there's a Java chat client and even an HTML chat client.

Electric Communities, creator of the virtual-community concept, previewed its long-awaited technology for serving a virtual community. Randy Farmer, Chip Morningstar, and Doug Crockford, founders of Habitat, the first virtual community, demoed and discussed their beta-test program and the issues surrounding virtual communities. Their distributed system includes real security for your avatar identity, real privacy, and effective powers to limit entry to any world. This will later extend to secure transactions for commerce. The E-Java extensions developed in-house are fundamental to their concept of object-oriented security. The demo worlds they have set up so far permit an amazing mix of file formats-anything can enter and function because everything is a separate object. A VRML avatar can have a bitmapped head allowing for a photorealistic face on a 3D body. The worlds themselves can be 2D, 3D, or a mix of the two. You will need the EC viewer to enter their worlds but since established communities are their targeted beta testers, it's not a problem.

Fujitsu announced the launch of their Dreamscape virtual community onto the Web. Dreamscape, which uses the WorldsAway software, is already a commercially successful virtual world-even in the relative seclusion of CompuServe, it generated $4 million revenue in the last year. Fujitsu says Dreamscape is so popular, its users spend an average of eight hours per month in the world. --S.W.