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3D Internet - Technologies and challenges

Luis M. Correia
IST – Technical University of Lisbon, Portugal

luis.correia@lx.it.pt

This article discusses the concept of 3D Internet, addressing not only the interface perspective, i.e., how the user can visualise it, but also, how the 3D Internet can be produced and how the network will impact on it. 

The concept 

The concept of 3D Internet has recently come into the spotlight in the R&D arena, catching the attention of many people, and leading to a lot of discussions. Basically, one can look into this matter from a few different perspectives: visualisation and representation of information, and creation and transportation of information, among others. All of them still constitute research challenges, as no products or services are yet available or foreseen for the near future. Nevertheless, one can try to envisage the directions that can be taken towards achieving this goal. 

Visualisation and Interfaces 

A very first approach to 3D Internet is, obviously, related to the problem of visualisation and interfacing. One can think, a priori, of a couple of devices that can accomplish such a goal: PETs (Personal Enhanced Terminals, usually known as Mobile Phones) and PARTSs (Personal Augmented Reality Three-dimensional Spectacles). PETs are capable of creating a kind of holographic image, hence, enabling the visualisation of 3D images and videos; an artist’s impression can be viewed in figure 1, which is based on a well know phone). PARTSs constitute an advanced version of today’s multimedia glasses, making it possible to visualise 3D images and even mixing them with real images. A simple view into it can be seen in. 

Quite a number of possibilities and technologies for this kind of devices have been discussed for some time, and one can foresee that, somewhere in the near future, prototypes will become available. Still, there are a number of issues that require to be addressed besides the simple visualisation of objects, like the possibility of the user to chose the angle of view, or even to go “into” the object, but, above all, on how to represent such objects and transport this information in an efficient way. 

Information creation 

Another perspective into 3D Internet can be taken from the production of 3D images and videos. Taking the well-known ways to do this (e.g. using various cameras located in different positions) as a starting point, one can extend this view to a much broader approach. Many, especially young people are nowadays prepared to put their own life in the Internet e.g. by uploading pictures and videos to popular websites. This concept can be extended further: people witnessing an event can make a video of this event by using a mobile phone and send it in real time via a mobile or wireless network to a website hosting a 3D-construction programme. This programme takes the images taken from different locations and creates a 3D video, which is made available in real time on the Internet. 

This approach puts together quite a number of different technologies, ranging from location information of users producing the several 2D contributions, to synchronisation of contributions at the host programme, besides the creation of such a programme itself. Furthermore, this puts also a number of requirements on the networks used to transport information, e.g. concerning delay, Quality of Service, efficient delivery, caching, and distribution. 

Conclusions

One can easily foresee that the 3D Internet will constitute a revolution in information visualisation, representation, transportation, and delivery. The technologies mentioned above enable a myriad of novel services and applications. The implications are hard to quantify, given their extent, since a new world will be open to people and products.

Please send us your comments on this article.