Getting caught up, I found an entry on Raph Koster’s blog (Link) of interest. In it, he refers to a review by Tom Crawford (Link) for an apparently new entry into the virtual world platform race: ProtonMedia’s “ProtoSphere” (Link).
Interesting and worth keeping in mind because some of what Crawford mentions in his Pro’s and Con’s sound reasonable and commendable (I’ve not tested this so I don’t know how accurate his comments are, but will take him at his word).
For example, I’ve always liked application sharing and ProtoSphere seems to handle that nicely based on the ProtonMedia video. But… it’s not really new. Within 3D virtual spaces, Croquet allows for similar functionality, so one assumes Qwaq has it as well.
I still like it so I’m not complaining. However, remaining objective about this I probably come off a bit less enthusiastic. Specifically, it’s this broad conclusion in Crawford’s post that makes me wince and which I would be hesitant to echo:
While ProtonMedia still has some areas to grow such as the ability for user (or even expert) content creation, and extended capabilities for scenario development, they have created an integrated platform that extends the common tools with the use of 3D visualization. For groups such as designers, manufacturers, claims adjusters, and others that need 3D, this is the easy choice.
I’d venture that neither designers like myself nor the manufacturers with whom we work would consider this service based on what I’m seeing on their website and reading in Crawford’s comments regarding content creation. If it doesn’t have the ability to utilize existing content – most often in the form of proprietary CAD formats – then that’s a big strike against it from my perspective. I don’t believe ProtoSphere does that. If it does and I’ve missed it, someone please correct me. I’d change my tune in a heartbeat.
Instead, assuming I’m correct and that if/when content creation features are implemented there will be additional effort required in exporting CAD data to some “dead” geometry file for use inside ProtoSphere, it becomes less compelling imo.
This is the reason I follow UGS, PTC and Dassault. They’re working on similar solutions to what I believe I’m seeing here, but which allow the use of native content their current design and manufacturing customers already generate as part of their business operation. They’re heading down this same path toward virtual 3D space interaction and are presently the only real option for designers and manufacturers unless businesses intend to invest in an effort to generate additional content for use inside these other systems. With everything still so wide open and without there being a widely-supported, standardized universal CAD format, that’s a risk I doubt many will take. Unfortunate but true; and the reason I keep harping on the need for an open source 3D format that bridges the gap between manufacturing CAD and videogame/virtual world content.
Thanks for the feedback on the post. You’re right that application sharing isn’t unique. In fact, there are other software that focus on it soley and have much richer feature sets. The same can be said for the other Protosphere features too. Other dedicated tools do each of them better. One of the bonuses of Protosphere, in my opinion, is those disparate features are integrated into one tool and, individually, they can also be replaced by another tool of choice while not leaving the virtual world. That’s what’s unique.
You were correct in saying that Protosphere can’t (at least to my knowledge) import CAD formats, even the more standard ones. I agree that’s a huge weakness. However, it’s a weakness shared by even the most popular ones like SL. Do UGS, PTC, and Dassault offer virtual world functionality? I would bet their offering 3D viewers and such, but can you put your avatar in the driver seat? Can you test how the car looks in your garage?
I may be stepping out here, but I think we actually agree when you say “With everything still so wide open and without there being a widely-supported, standardized universal CAD format, thatâ€™s a risk I doubt many will take. Unfortunate but true; and the reason I keep harping on the need for an open source 3D format that bridges the gap between manufacturing CAD and videogame/virtual world content.” Protosphere and all of the other virtual worlds have a significant weakness in that they can’t do anything with the long standardized 3D formats. Whoever does that first may have a significant advantage.
Unfortunately, my comments only extend to comparing virtual worlds like SL, Protosphere, and There, but not into the 3D CAD world. Someday, maybe they won’t be so separate.
Agreed. It’s the integration that’s PhotoSphere’s strength. Croquet does have similar capabilities, but what it and some of the tools being developed around it are doing makes it perhaps possible that PhotoSphere could be part of someone’s broader integration which includes them. At least that’s how I’m reading some of what’s going on with Croquet and Co.
As for the big boys, it’s true that UGS, PTC, and Dassault aren’t (from my reading) moving very quickly on the virtual world front; but there has been some movement… though some of it does seem to be more vaporous PR than actual substance. Not too surprising. I once likened the high-end CAD/PLM vendors to videocard hardware players of old (the Evans & Sutherland’s of ten years ago). The recent “defection” of one of Dassault’s founders to ParallelGraphics signals to me that it’s the scrappy, fast-to-adapt low-end players that will once again take the market.
It may take another ten or twenty years, but I do believe we’ll see a convergence. It makes too much sense to me. Hopefully, it’ll come sooner rather than later for those of us with feet in two similar but separate sandboxes.
In the meantime, thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment.