Models, models, models…

Thursday and Friday last week I attended a meeting hosted by the CARARE project’s 3D workgroup. I got to see some really impressive 3D-models, ranging from detailed models of individual artefacts to models of entire historical city centres. Overall the content is  focused on monuments: temples and churches, city ruins and castles.

We also discussed how these models are best ingested and made searchable in Europeana. For the latter I’d made some very simple mock-ups that you can see on Slideshare. In basic terms, searching for 3D will work just like any other type of content – the challenge comes when the user clicks-trhough to original context. Why? Because, 3D models come in a bewilidering array of formats, many of which recquire their own special plug-ins for the users to interact with. The CARARE project will try to consolidate their formats and always offer a 3D PDF version of their models (who all have varying individual orginal formats, 3D PDF will be one publication format).


3D model of Baños de Cerrato basilica, Spain. Copyright: Daniël Pletinckx, Visual Dimension.

Why 3D PDF? Well, it’s a standardised and open (though proprietary) format that allows combining multiple individual 3D-scenes in one document and, important, with descriptive and contextual information along with it. Furthermore, most users (c. 90%) already have Acrobat Reader so downloading a plug-in will most often not be necessary.

We did talk alot also about HTML5 and agreed that this would be the ideal solution in terms of offering access to 3D to users without the need for any plug-in. However, adopting HTML5 as the solution for us right now wasn’t considered suitable. The reason being that HTML5 hasn’t come long enough on its way to become a stable standard yet (it’s still a working draft and won’t reach candidate status until 2012). Already there are some very promising examples of pure HTML5 3D access that you can try out (you’ll need an uptodate browser!): example 1, example 2, and example 3.

The further development of 3D and HTML5 is obviously something both CARARE and Europeana will have to keep our eyes on!

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