After the last X3D meeting and goodbyes were said in Paderborn,
I journeyed by train to Berlin. 10 years earlier, soon after re-unification
and before it was made the hauptstadt, I had visited this city with
a backpack; now I was armed with a backpack and a laptop. I found
Berlin a new and modern city, transformed by the years of development
and integration with the East- giant cranes fill much of the skyline
as this energetic and creative process continues. I spent my first
days touring the city, seeing the Carnival parade, visiting a few
museums, and preparing for my meetings that week. I was to meet
with echtzeit AG, a real-time 3D company with a broad range of software
and service offerings.
Their offices are located in a beautiful tree-lined
neighborhood on the edge of the GruneWald, a forest on the West
side of town. After a brief walk from the station, I found the address
and was greeted by Holger Friedrichs, their PR manager. We had a
seat with Guido Woska, sales manager, and ran through a number of
product demos and projects that echtzeit has produced.
History & Brief
Started in 1995 by Professor Edouard Bannwart (President) and Claudia
Alsdorf (CEO) as a Virtual Reality / New Media company, their early
relationships with Deutsche Telecom developing applications for
broadband technology, then still in its infancy, gave them the infrastructure
to research and develop their amazing VR internet products. Their
early experience is now being put to good use for narrow band internet.
Since it was founded in 1995, echtzeit AG
has developed from a pioneer in 3D visualization into a key player
in the Web market. Based in Berlin, Germany, with a satellite office
in San Francisco, echtzeit is one of the world's leading producers
of B2B and B2B2C visualization products and services.
echtzeit AG's expansive portfolio of products
and services includes both a wide variety of modular 3D solutions
that can be easily integrated across a variety of domains and an
extensive array of industry standard databases and commerce solutions.
Along with its branch company, arTeC, echtzeit
AG concentrates on computer graphics and technology in the fields
of city planning, architecture, civil engineering and design.
The sleek and functional design of their website
is telling of their multimedia approach and mastery: clean layouts,
appealing ratios of information to eye-candy, and commendable technology
Flash. The site contains a variety of media, balanced and well placed-
used only where it adds value to the experience. Behind the scenes
here at echtzeit are over 45 designers, modelers, architects, and
software engineers... I was continually amazed and engaged.
Applications & Products
Since we were after the 3D, we jumped into 5 projects
/ products they had recently completed. Their approach was new and
entirely sensible: to use VRML for its strengths in building scenes
and environments while using QuickTime VR for showing detailed objects
- EShop is a 2D and 3D eCommerce
system for online stores. There is of course a 2D interface to
products and searches, but also a customizable 3D store built
from modular components for easy re-shelving and/or redesign.
Eshop creates 'walk-through' virtual shops or even entire online
warehouses (beyond retail, see their eProcurement products). The
pipeline is completed with their recent joint venture with Gemex
(a Metro subsidiary) in launching 3D-Viz.com, a 3D product imaging
- 3D Finance gives a whole new level
of access to financial information & services via the internet:
VRML, Flash, and Quicktime scenarios work together to guide you
around company facilities, departments and personnel, presentations,
and Frequently Asked Questions. The flow of the interface is smooth
as one is welcomed and guided by virtual characters that give
a personal interface to detailed information.
- 3D Guide Avatars and virtual characters
are just the beginning of echtzeit's skill set.
In a recent project for Astron Hotels (www.astron.de)
an attractive 3D hostess guides you through the Hotel's amenities:
the lobby, the desk, the fitness center, the hotel store, and the
elevator. It is a well-built 3D environment in VRML using ProximitySensors,
scaling semi-transparent HUD menus, and predefined animations that
give a convincing and seamless user experience. When the user selects
to preview the accommodations or take the elevator, they can select
to preview 360 QTVR panoramas of the various rooms.
In their quest to fill bandwidth with cooler and
cooler things, echtzeit has developed eTalk a networked 3D and Video
communication platform. Video streams are mapped realtime onto a
3D head allowing eye-to-eye contact inside the 3D world! The web
cam and head tracking input system is small, light, and unobtrusive.
Echtzeit pushes the interface with Virtual Characters
a step further with a recent installation in conjunction with dmc2
in Frankfurt of a holographic receptionist who greets building visitors,
verifies appointments, clears security, alerts staff of their appointment,
and gives directions to their destination through a series of touchscreens
and 3D maps. (see www.on-location.de)
What was proven time and time again through these
products is that echtzeit's vision for 3D networked media is bigger
than what people currently envision as Web3D ( Quake-style games,
Echtzeit thinks outside the box,
and pragmatically pushes current media capabilities with the grace
of scientific artisans.
We toured their studio and production area, and
then went in to meet Claudia Alsdorf, founder and CEO. We enjoyed
a friendly discussion of the Web3D industry, the Web3D Symposium,
and their growth over recent years. Echtzeit's Web3D solutions cover
a range of applications from eCommerce and eProcurement to architecture
to communication to sales and customer service. They consult, develop,
and produce these solutions using their unique talent base and design
savvy: echtzeit's staff is made up of strong experience and complementary
skills in all these areas. Ms. Alsdorf feels that wireless applications
will provide a new level of growth for Web3D media, and with the
calibre of their telecom clients, it may not be that far off!
As the sun shone into Claudia Alsdorf's office
and lit the tiny jade buddha smiling next to her computer, it became
clear that echtzeit's mindful strategy and insightful management
will take the company's pioneering solutions into full bloom, as
a lotus in the spring of a new millennium. - n_polys