A new “3D community” has
just been launched, with the unusual name of 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…

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


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

How it works

Here are more details on what Teapotters.com can do and the specs to run the 3D

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
  • 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.

richard macmanus