What is VRML?

I’ve heard a lot about VRML, but don’t know what it is. Please explain.

VRML (Virtual Reality Markup Language) is a method for sending 3D data across the Internet and allowing users to interact with this data. To represent a 3D object, one can use either text-based representation or data from a binary data source.

VRML itself is a scene description language that describes the 3D environment on the Web. The information in the VRML message is a geometric description of wireframe-style outlines of all the objects in a scene. Once the scene is outlined it can be rendered according to instructions included in the language.

VRML is an interpreted language; that is, it has to be parsed (syntactically processed) when it arrives at your machine, then displayed. You need a VRML reader or VRML-enabled browser to recreate the scene from its description.

An alternative to using a text based language is to use the binary descriptions of geometries direct from a database. VRML “talks” in terms of graphic units and their properties. 3D graphics, such as a sphere, are produced by calling named functions that control the behavior of graphics primitives.

The library of functions that is used to create all the graphics forming a 3D model is called an Application Program Interface (API). VRML is currently at version 2.0.

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