With Adobe's latest creation, Atmosphere, the software giant has set out
to create a new paradigm of the internet. This is no small feat, and it
will be interesting to see how internet-going public react to the new
possibilities which are just now being presented before them. Users will of
course, need to be equipped with Atmosphere Browser, an as yet only
standalone browser for navigating the 3D worlds web developers may soon be
constructing with Atmosphere Builder.
Both Browser and Builder are still in beta stages so the software we
tested is still lacking many of the ultimate features. Still, there is
enough of the applications to warrant a preview of things to come. But first,
what exactly is Atmosphere? Should you pay it any attention, and how will it fit
into the great scheme of things?
What is Atmosphere?
It goes something like this - take the best of VRML, e-commerce,
FPS video games and instant messaging - roll it all together and
create a 3D real-time 'internet experience' that looks and acts similar to
an FPS game environment.
Within these 3D worlds you can navigate through corridors, alter
environmental aspects like clipping and gravity, look around, and take in all
the lighting and image mapping in a virtual counterpart to stopping and smelling
the roses. While the visual aspects are unique, the commercial aspects of this
new adaptation of current technology could be quite astounding.
For you see, what Atmosphere
Builder does is enable the web developer to reproduce three dimensional worlds
where users can maneuver (perhaps walking through a virtual shoe store) a
virtual world that contains more than just the walls, floors and imagery. The
Browser can also show the presence of other individuals. Called "avatars" the
people are represented by small 3D characters that are not only visible to
one another, but with which you can also converse via chat.
avatar n. Syn. [in Hindu mythology, the incarnation of a god] 1. Among
people working on virtual reality and cyberspace interfaces, an "avatar"
is an icon or representation of a user in a shared virtual reality. The term is
sometimes used on MUDs. 2. [CMU,
Tektronix] root, superuser. There are quite a few Unix
machines on which the name of the superuser account is `avatar' rather than
`root'. This quirk was originated by a CMU hacker who found the terms `root' and
`superuser' unimaginative, and thought `avatar' might better impress people with
the responsibility they were accepting.
Consider the shoe store analogy for a
moment. Equipped with the Atmosphere Browser you decide to visit your local online
Fluevog shoe store. As you navigate around the virtual store looking for that
perfect pair of Angel soled shoes you notice one pair that stands out from the rest.
The price is right, and you know what colour you'd like, but you're unsure what size
to get and would like to get some advice. Noting the salespersons avatar, you navigate over
and ask for some much needed foot-sizing advice - on the spot and in real time.
Satisfied that you are indeed getting the right sized shoe, you decide to ask
another customer in the store who happens to be by the check-out about the quality
of Fluevogs foot ware.
A few seconds of live chat with the customer from Montreal who swears by Fluevogs leaves you
convinced that you're getting the best for your buck. A few moments latter you
check out with a new and very comfortable pair of Fluevogs.
That is of course, just one possible interpretation of
where this technology could be applied, though this is a decidedly commercial example.
Atmosphere could be a very powerful web tool that injects new vitality
into an increasingly common-place internet - or it could fail to make an impact like the much over-hyped,