3D is Just Plain Cool!
Oh, I have my numbers and arguments why 3D makes sense for online marketing - particularly e-commerce: The ability to display merchandise in a more natural way and deliver more information in a limited space. The idea that you can extend a retailer's branding effect by replicating the real world shopping experience online. The power that 3D dispenses to the viewer that lets them manipulate, view, and interact with an object at will. All of them great arguments about why you would want to deploy a 3D world.
But in the end, I have to admit - it's only for show. The fact is I just love 3D worlds, 3D animation, and 3D graphics. All the arguments, stats, and figures are only for (as we would say in New York) the graphic "goys": outsiders who really don't get it and never will. Some things just can't be explained: Bach's "Goldberg Variations", the paintings of Mark Rothko, and 3D Graphics. Some things you just love because they are what they are and no explanation is necessary. And as far as 3D is concerned, I don't think I'm alone in thinking this way.
At the Rich Media Road Show we had a tech shoot-out where 15 vendors got on stage and had seven minutes to pitch their hearts out. The winner by anyone's estimate had to be a company called Viewpoint. Viewpoint, like a lot of companies in this space, has seen their share of changes over the years. They're one of the old-timers. They started out as suppliers of 3D models and there probably isn't a video game out there that doesn't incorporate some sort of Viewpoint model in it somewhere.
About a year ago they merged with a company called MetaStream which gave them the technology necessary to stream 3D animation over the Internet and they are now one of the leading players in the 3D advertising and marketing space. So much so that AOL has invested a nice chunk in them and Dell Computers recently announced they would be using Viewpoint technology to demonstrate Dell computers on their website.
At the tech shoot out, Viewpoint demonstrated not only their 3D technology (3D Palm Pilots floating, Godiva Chocolate Boxes opening, Nike Shoes flexing) but also their 2D imaging technology (they were able to zoom so close on a female models face that you could see her contact lens from the back of the auditorium) as well as proprietary technology that triggers explanatory video clips while the viewer manipulates a 3D model in real time (i.e. the viewer manipulates a virtual 3D Vaio computer on the Web page and clicks on the "firewire" port: "Oh, that's an interesting one..." quips a video clip of a man as the explanation for that particular feature is launched via the viewers interaction with the 3D model).
Go to their website and check out the demos (you need to download their player - trust me - it's a no-brainer). In the end, I can't really tell you what a wonderful way this is to view merchandise if you don't get it. Some things have just got to be "groked". But you marketers out there - understand this: we are about to embark on a 3D renaissance. Movies like "Final Fantasy," with new advancements in 3D human modeling and animation, are about to reawaken in the public's interest in the art of 3D.
3D will soon be popping up everywhere: in movies, on TV, in print. So, why not the Web?
For those of you who want to take a closer look at what else is available, check out some of these other vendors who are making 3D on the Web cool again: RichFX, Pulse Interactive, Brilliant Digital, CyberExtruder, Shout Interactive, and Eyematic. Just maybe you'll get hooked like me.
- Bill McCloskey is Founder and CEO of Emerging Interest, an organization dedicated to educating the Internet advertising and marketing industry about rich media and other emerging technologies. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.