Imagine animating and adding interaction to the content on your Internet commerce site without forcing your visitors to endure lengthy downloads. Add the capability for this content to be seen and used on virtually every platform in 3D, and you are just starting to realise the power of Cult3D 3.1.
Cult3D from Cycore Computers is a highly optimised software solution that provides graphic artists and Web designers with a real-time, 3D development and rendering environment for the Web.
With this tool, Web designers can take a graphical object, such as a CD player, and animate it to display its working parts. What's more, they can make it interactive by allowing the user to operate the object over the Web by moving the mouse.
Because Cult3D has built-in compression and streaming capabilities, this interactivity happens at a much quicker pace than ever before.
With its powerful combination of features, Cult3D will fast become a favourite for enhancing Internet commerce, distance learning, and interactive Web sites.
Although Web-based 3D and animation tools have been available for some time, many designers have steered clear because of their complexity, as well as the huge bandwidth issues associated with downloading 3D graphics. Now, online auctions, I-commerce sites, and distance learning will move one step closer to the real thing. Using Cult3D, an auto manufacturer, for example, could show off the latest features of a car by giving potential customers the ability to "kick the tyres", so to speak, by interacting with the power windows, the CD player, or the engine via a Web browser.
New players are emerging quickly in this market; MetaStream by MetaCreations and Fluid3D by Oz.com are two of the most noteworthy. However, Cult3D has an unusual pricing scheme: the software is free, but the company charges $3600 per product line to display the images you create on the Web.
For example, the Ford Motor Company would pay just $3600 to display images of any car it sells.
What I found to be a real plus was that the Cult3D suite consists of just three pieces, excluding the originating graphics package.
The exporting tool, or exporter, currently works only with Kinetix's 3D Studio Max. But Cycore has plans to enhance it in a future release to support other graphics products, such as Wavefront's Maya and Avid's Softimage.
The animation tool, called the 3-D Designer, is a graphical stand-alone environment used to build and test animation segments. The suite is rounded out with a plug-in, or animation viewer, that enables end users to view the images on the Web.
It weighs in at just under 400KB and works with Netscape browsers Version 2.0 and later or Microsoft's Internet Explorer Version 4.0 or later.
To test the product, I decided to animate an image using the 3-D Designer and then display my handiwork via a Netscape browser that had been updated with the plug-in. I found Cult3D to be object-oriented in nature, but also quite simple and fun to work with.
Using one of the images that Cycore provided with the product, that of a Sony MiniDisc player, I began by defining which pieces of the image I wanted to animate, such as opening and closing the case or ejecting the disk, from a selectable text list of predefined objects.
Because the tool uses a graphical interface, I was able to easily determine that my next steps were to add an event and associate an action with it.
For the purposes of my testing, I chose to play a MIDI file each time someone clicked the mouse on the play button. Within a matter of minutes (as opposed to hours) I was able to animate a graphic, save it, and display it on a Web page.
I purposely chose to test my animation using a 28.8Kbps modem, and what I experienced was not what I expected.
Even though many of my files contained an enormous amount of complex information and interaction, I was still able to compress and present them in file sizes smaller than most .jpeg or .gif formats.
If you have wanted to add interactive 3D objects to your Web site, but have been frustrated by the expense and long download times, take a look at Cult3D.
I think you will agree that the doors of perception are just beginning to open.
The Bottom Line
Web designers looking for ways to inject their sites with interactivity without adding bandwidth should take a look at Cult3D. With its plethora of features, including Java support and phenomenal data compression, this product will make slow 3D graphics a thing of the past. Companies can potentially increase Internet-commerce revenue by implementing this "try-before-you-buy" technology on their site.
Pros: Efficient bandwidth usage; supports multiple platforms; full Java support.
Cons: Supports 3D Studio Max only.
Platforms: Windows 95, Windows 98, and Windows NT; Mac OS; Unix; BeOSPrice: Free download from the Web site.