Why we had to drop the stereo-view for AnRep3D

After all the examples given, showing the usage of the AnRep3D generator, it’s time for some retrospective. It will be bit of a technical discussion, so if you don’t like it, just skip this post as the subject is a one-off for now.

The original plan was – and still is – to create a Virtual Reality environment, where the graphs can be walked through and manipulated in real time. Actually, our first step was closer to this objective than the current implementation of AnRep3D. The old versions of the generator were providing VRML output. VRML stands for Virtual Reality Modelling Language (in the past the formal expression was Virtual Reality Markup Language). It became popular with a small group of people and organisations only and as a result there was e.g. no native support for the language in browsers or other broadly used applications. Plug-ins and stand-alone viewers were available – even for free – but we noticed people didn’t like to go there.

VRML is a rather old language and it has a successor in XML-format: X3D. Unfortunately this new official standard is supported even less than VRML itself! So about two years ago we decided to switch to a new concept, lowering the threshold for users. Since then generator provided HTML5 code, to be read by all modern browsers. The choice was still between generating a lot of Javascript-code (I hate the language but it’s everywhere) or some kind of rather clean X3D, embedded in a HTML-page as supported by X3DOM. X3DOM is a standard and a supporting organisation (see: https://www.x3dom.org/ ). Deep down both solutions use WebGL ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WebGL ), so basically there’s no difference but X3DOM takes care of all the Javascript nuisance.

So after years of research and development using VRML, we moved to X3DOM and now the output of the generator can be presented by a web-browser without any additional actions like installing plug-ins. One of the drawbacks however, is the lack of support for stereoscopy. For VRML a very nice viewer was available (see: http://freewrl.sourceforge.net/ ) offering stereoscopic view based on a left-eye and right-eye presentation (and other options as well). For X3DOM or at least HTML5 with X3D (using WebGL) it’s not impossible, but very, very hard as the whole image has to be generated for both left and right eye – both presenting a slightly different viewpoint of course. But to be honest: the parameters for the stereoscopic viewer had to be optimised to get the best result and only experienced users would go down that road.

Yet it’s nice to see the stereoscopic version of the AnRep3D-graph using some VR-gear like wither an Oculus or a mobile phone in some cardboard-equivalent. In the picture an example of a cheap one I purchased recently.

VR-headset

Don’t think it’s impossible to offer stereoscopic pictures for an AnRep3D graph. Screenshots can still be stereoscopic, because the left-eye picture and the right-eye picture can be taken as separate screenshots and placed together. Remember: It will do to present them on the screen of a  mobile phone which is placed in some cheap VR-device (about 10 euro). The same way as stereoscopic Youtube movies are watched. An example of (the box of) such a device is shown to the left.

 

The actual screenshot-pair taken from a graph discussed in a previous post is shown below (please download the original – it’s larger and therefore the resolution will be better).

Stereo-view of graph large companies

For people who prefer to squint when looking at stereoscopic photographs (I do it myself), there is a second version of the picture with the left-eye and right-eye image switched. It has a tiny white line in the middle (on purpose, to avoid confusion with the headset version).

Crossed stereo-view for graph showing large companies

 

The real difficulty is having a stereoscopic image to be manipulated (translate, rotate, tilt) in real-time. Eventually we will get there again. For now it’s important everybody in the world knowing about AnRep3D and the people needing it all having a licence!

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About AnRep3D

AnRep3D is the new company, founded after the handover of Scientassist (together with VRBI) to one of my sons. From now I will focus on three-dimensional graphs for the financial markets, showing the main figures from annual reports in comparison.
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