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A Brief Introduction to ActiveVRML

Conal Elliott


This paper introduces the Active Virtual Reality Modeling Language (ActiveVRML), a modeling language for specifying interactive animations. To allow the creation of interactive animations to be as natural as possible, ActiveVRML is based on a simple and intuitively familiar view of the world; that is, as a hybrid of continuous variations and discrete events. For example, the behavior of a bouncing ball consists of continuous trajectories and discrete collisions. Trajectories cause collision events, and collision events cause new trajectories. Using ActiveVRML, one can create simple or sophisticated animations without programming in the usual sense of the word. For example, the programmer is freed from details of frame generation and concurrency. The first few sections of this paper use a running example-a solar system that begins as a single static planet, and then adds animation, other planets, and sound. The remainder of this paper is organized as follows. We first outline the media types and operations. Next, we describe how ActiveVRML complements other Internet-standard file formats by supporting importation. We then illustrate the keys ideas of composition, parameterization, and scoped naming. Next, we introduce behaviors, which are time-varying values of all types. We then show how to add spatialized sound to a model. Next, we explain reactivity and the various kinds of events that support reactivity. We then describe support for user interaction. Next, we illustrate the principle of time transformation, which provides temporal modularity. We then briefly describe the built-in support for behaviors defined in terms of rates of change. Finally, we develop as an extended example, a collection of balls bouncing around in a box.


Publication typeTechReport
InstitutionMicrosoft Research
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