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From the Engine Room

Using VRML with Firefox 3

By 26th June 2008 One Comment

http://www.mediamachines.com/developer.php

VRML, Virtual Reality Markup Language (or Virtual Reality Modelling Language, if you prefer), is a veritable format which enjoyed a brief period of popularity in the 1990s. Rather like video telephony, it turned out that just because something was technically possible, it didn’t mean that people actually wanted to use it. But the format persists, although largely superseded by other, only slightly more popular formats.

Still, whilst dusting off my disco glitter flares I finally found a use for VRML, when I discovered Virtual Insects, a website last updated in 1999, featuring VRML insects, and a spider!

3D mosquito © Alexei Sharov

Virtual Insects is a fine old internet veteran, and so the instructions for use are rather creaky and old! It suggests that users can view the VRML insect creations in a browser, using an appropriate plug-in. That much hasn’t changed, then. But browsers definitely have. On investigation, Firefox is unable to find a suitable plug-in. Virtual Insects itself suggests using Cosmoplayer for Windows. So off I went to try that – a sizeable download later and Cosmoplayer was plaintively bleating that it couldn’t find Netscape. Yes, Netscape. If you don’t know what that is, ask your dad. Now there was no way I was going to install Netscape just for that, so Cosmoplayer hit the recycle bin before it even got started. Surely Firefox had something else that would do the trick?

After much rooting about the answer was found: Flux Player is a small, free VRML player that integrates perfectly well with Firefox 3. Doesn’t seem to work with IE7 but I didn’t try particularly hard. It doesn’t install like a plug-in but has its own installer, and once run it shows the 3D insects – and the spider – in all their glory. Hope you enjoy them as much as I did!

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