The Internet has meant a social revolution, changing forever the way we communicate and how we access to the information. The growing expansion of technology and the development of easier applications have given as a result the high level of popularity achieved by Internet related services, especially the World Wide Web. Using a hypertext system, Web users can select and read in their computers information from all around the world, with no other requirement than an Internet connection and a browser. For a long time, the information available on the Internet has been a series of written texts and 2D pictures (i.e., static information). This sort of information suited many publications, but it was highly unsatisfactory for others, like those related to objects of art, where real volume and interactivity with the user, are of great importance. Here, the possibility of including 3D information in Web pages makes real sense. As we become an increasingly visual society, a way to maintain heritage is to adapt museums to new times. The possibility of not only visiting and knowing the museums nearby but also enabling anybody to visit the building from their homes could be enabled. This would imply the incorporation of the virtual reality (Kim, 2005; Vince, 2004), although today only a few museums allow this kind of visit via Internet. In virtual reality, human actions and experiences that interact with the real world are emulated although, obviously, with some limitations. With virtual reality, the user could walk, examine, and interact with the environment, in contrast to traditional media like television that present excellent graphics but lack interactivity. Although this is not a new idea, it is achieving a wider expression due to the availability of software standards like VRML and X3D. VRML, virtual reality modeling language (Carey, Bell, & Marrin, 1997) is a widespread language for the description of 3D scenes and WWW hyperlinks (an analogy of the HTML for virtual reality). X3D, Extensible 3D (Web3D Consortium, 2004) is the successor of VRML, it is intended to be the universal interchange format for integrated 3D graphics and multimedia. VRML/X3D are, perhaps, most interesting to Internet users eager to discover new interesting sites on the Internet, and for the people that use it like a hobby, but those could also allow us to see a 3D artifact from any angle and perspective, to turn it in any way, manipulate it (Lepouras & Vassilakis, 2005; Petridis et al., 2005)—something totally forbidden in a real museum. This work deals with the design of a system, which allows this interactive Web access to works of art in 3D, as a step in a research project dealing with the design and implementation of a virtual and interactive museum in 3D on the Web. Also, all the associated information like history, architectural data, archaeological data, and culture will be available at the click of a mouse.
Several museums around the world are already committed to a strong Web presence and many others will adopt one very soon. Dynamic museum leaders understood that the increasing number of internauts requires special attention from museums: Internet─and CD-ROM’s─represent new media that will challenge museum communication strategies.
According to Proença, Brito Ramalho, and Regalo (1998):
Two distinct Web approaches are being adopted by the museums. Some regard their presence on the Web as another way to publicize the museum and to promote their activities; others use the Web as a powerful resource to achieve their purposes: to conserve, to study and to display.
Key Terms in this Chapter
X3D: Extensible 3D (X3D) is a software standard for defining interactive Web- and broadcast-based 3D content integrated with multimedia. X3D is the successor to the Virtual Reality Modeling Language (VRML), the original ISO standard for Web-based 3D graphics (ISO/IEC 14772). It improves upon VRML with new features and a componentized architecture that allows for a modular approach to supporting the standard.
Virtual Reality (VR): The use of computer modeling and simulation to enable a person to interact with an artificial three-dimensional visual or other sensory environment. VR applications immerse the user in a computer-generated environment that simulates reality through the use of interactive devices, which send and receive information and are worn as goggles, headsets, gloves, etc.
Internet Relay Chat (IRC): A form of instant communication over the Internet. It is mainly designed for group (Many-to-many) communication in discussion forums called channels, but also allows one-to-one communication.
Virtual Museum: A collection of digitally recorded images, sound files, text documents, and other data of historical, scientific, or cultural interest that are accessed through electronic media. A virtual museum does not house actual objects and therefore lacks the permanence and unique qualities of a museum in the institutional definition of the term.
Dynamic HTML: A collective term for a combination of new HTML tags and options, style sheets and programming, which enable you to create Web pages that are more interactive and faster to download.
Java: A platform-independent programming language, produced by Sun Microsystems. Java is built as a method to provide services over the WWW. With Java, a Web site provides a Java application (called an applet) which is downloaded by the client and executed on the client machine. Java is specifically built so that an application can be run on any kind of system.
VRML (Virtual reality modeling language): A programming language for the creation of virtual worlds. Using a VRML viewer, you can take a virtual tour of a 3D model building, or manipulate animations of 3D objects. Hyperlinks to other sites and files can be embedded in the world you visit.