Teapotters. The name comes from 3D pioneer Martin Newell, who created the first free 3D model in 1974 - a teapot model. The site Teapotters.com aims to popularize 3D displays and sharing across the Web - websites, social networks, blogs and more - via a "3D widget". The email pitch I received referred to the service as "the Youtube of 3D". I know, that kind of description makes most of us roll our eyes. But still, I was intrigued enough to check it out...A new "3D community" has just been launched, with the unusual name of
The way this works is via a plugin, so to actually view any of the 3D widgets you first have to install the plugin. Here is what you encounter before you've installed anything (this is in Fx, but it's a similar process for IE):
The plugin you need is called 3D Life Player and it was a bit of a process getting it installed. But after I installed the plugin and downloaded a 4MB sample teapot 3D file, this is what I saw:
Another example is the Nintendo Wii showcase:
Overall it's a fun technology, but it may take a while to become popular in the likes of MySpace and blogs. Having to install a plugin before you can view these 3D widgets is going to be a major obstacle to overcome. Perhaps such plugins will over time become as ubiquitous as Flash is today, but that's a few years out at least. Another issue is that the 3D files seem to be quite large. The teapot example was 4 MB and the Nintendo one was 800kb. Perhaps this won't be a problem going forward, as broadband services improve, but right now it's an issue for a widget - which are supposed to be lightweight. Also I noticed that when I was running the 3D animations, my Firefox browser seemed to clam up and run slowly (but that may say more about my current laptop's sometimes dodgy performance).
How it works
Here are more details on what Teapotters.com can do and the specs to run the 3D files:
What Teapotters can do:
- Upload and Server side 3D files conversion
- Real-time 3D display
- Real-time 3D for Blog publishing with 3D widget
- Classic community features Tag/Comment/rating/etc...
Real-time 3D Tech Req:
- Recent 3D graphics cards
- IE 6/7 for the plug-in installation (works after plug-in installation with Firefox)
- Works on MacOSX but it's still in an alpha test
There's a tour video (around a 40MB download!) and also more info about the service on their About page, which notes that Teapotters.com is a "Friday Creative project" and backed by "some of Dassault Systemes' innovative technologies".
Teapotter's goal of making 3D available for everyone, everywhere on the web, is certainly admirable. It's impressive technology, but it will struggle to get immediate uptake simply due to the user overheads (plugin and large widget files). But it's surely a pointer to the future of the Web, when 3D technologies and widgets displaying them will be commonplace in social networks.