Adding 3-D to Shockwave enables access to all sorts of new Web content. One of the most obvious applications is Web-based 3-D gaming. First-person adventure games and other games with fully realized 3-D worlds have dominated the PC and game-console market for almost a decade. The new Shockwave capabilities allow this sort of game to be played over the Web.
Web-based 3-D gaming is getting a lot of attention, but it is only one market for the new technology. 3-D capability is perhaps better suited for advancing e-commerce. Web merchants can give their customers a much clearer idea of products in their catalog if the customers can see the product as a 3-D image. With 3-D models, online shopping is a little more like in-store shopping -- customers can rotate the item around, checking it out from every angle.
Customers can also modify 3-D models for their own particular needs. One of the most useful applications for this is clothes shopping. If an online shopper enters his or her measurements, the 3-D software can generate a model of that person's body, which can be "dressed" with 3-D models of particular clothes. This is a virtual version of the real-world dressing room.
This level of user interactivity is also a great addition to educational sites like HowStuffWorks. A 3-D model of an engine that you can turn around and interact with can offer a much clearer illustration of the mechanisms at work than a 2-D model -- it's more like actually handling and examining the engine yourself.
For example, if you want to understand how a paintball gun works, a 3-D model can be incredibly useful. You can see exactly how the mechanism fits together and fires. Click here to see a 3-D model. If you want to learn more about paintball guns after seeing the model, see How Paintball Works.
In all of these applications, the most significant benefit of 3-D is greater user involvement. You can decide what you want to look at instead of just viewing a pre-set movie. The difference is comparable to the difference between watching television and playing a video game.
To see more examples of Shockwave models, check out: