VR History 101 – Cube3 Virtual Shopping Worlds c.2003


As shown in an earlier post, VR has been used in Store Design and Merchandising Design since the late 80s. By the mid 90s we had demoed online VR Shopping Worlds, and this example web based X3D prototype done in aprox. 2002-2003 showed not only a  VR shopping plaza, but the idea of personalized “VR pod” spaces where viewsers “could” live and host movies, music and get together’s with their friends. Music stores became club like mediaverse spaces that would run 24/7 and avatar fashion would be just as important as real-life fashion and wears. Virtual 3D shopping isn’t what most think, What we learned then is still the reality now.

A Hierarchical Pyramid for VR and or Immersive Media. TOP VIEW:)


VR History 101 – Adobe made a VR 3D CHAT product?! say wha?!


Yes. Adobe the graphics giant DID spend years developing a multi-user 3D VR chat program and server. Called “Atmosphere” it lived in perpetual beta even before Second Life ever came out. When it finally was released it lasted about as long as Googles VR Chat Lively. ( Say WHA?! Google had a 3D VR Chat? ) which for both was only a few months until unceremoniously pulled by both companies. Adobe Atmosphere was online around 2001-4 or so. Lively from Google came about later, maybe 2006-7. It died in 2008.

The GHOSTSHIP was a DARK RIDE like mystery that i built in a weekend at the request of the software’s Evangelist who suggested i should make something for their contest. So I did. Won 3rd prize. 😉

Like most 3D VR chat worlds/online 3D min-games done they can no longer be experienced since the plugins and the servers are long gone. Here’s the link to the setup page and a set of images from the long dead Ghostship SS Atlantis. May new VR Chats have longer lives.;) Will the HMDs make the difference in finding mass adoption? I have some thoughts.


VR History 101 – First 3D VR Shopping Mall on the Internet


Many People claim the first 3D Virtual Shopping Malls on the Internet etc etc. This maybe the earliest “working demo” Although there were no paypal buttons or credit card click here’s within browsers in 95 to allow an actual purchase of anything, The Mall did work as a 2D/3D hybrid Interface.

This was a full 3D interface that launched each “3D floor” of the Shopping Center. Each was a RT3D model and linked to a 2D HTML pages of photos/text descriptions of actual products. It was built in Virtus VR, exported as VRML 1,0 and placed on the WWW as a company demo.

Simple, Graphic and Pretty Cool.

FLASHBACK: 3D and VR IN THE 90’s and BEYOND. Interview 4/16/15 (Complete Text Only Post)


Interview with Matthew Terndrup (@industrychanger) from http://www.uploadvr.com – Published April 16, 2015 (Complete Text Only)

So Larry, what got you started in 3D and VR?

I always been involved in design and 3d. I was in my teens in the 1970’s so I was a child of the Star Wars, Lucas/Spielberg Invasion into Pop Culture. Even before them, I read and saw all the earlier sci fi and fantasy movies, books and TV shows. And as the “art kid” growing up, those images flooded my drawings and model making abilities until i went away to college. In design school, Pratt Institute, in the early 80s I focused on the “skills” the people who had made those films had studied. I became an Industrial Designer and broadened my interests toward all media and design related histories and ideas. When I began Pratt it was as part of the last ‘traditionally trained” designers. In my Junior year, I lobbied strongly with my chairman to start a class for Designers on the just bought Vax supercomputer that “was” intended only for film  majors and a few fine artists. He created that class, (gave a start to some well known folk in the industry) and I began it. I quit within 2 weeks when confronted with 6 months of coding to create a single “genie bottle raster render” design.  Suffice it to say 3D wasnt ready for Designers then as much of a creative tool.

Three to four years later the first Color Mac IIs came out. I was a creative director at an agency that was known for store and display design and marketing. As the “young guy creative” they put the big color mac on my desk to see what it could do. I got access to the alphas of Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop and other software as well as the early Mac based 3d tools. Swivel3D- which came out of JPLs VR research, and Virtus VR, which was the first real time 3d tool on the Mac. I Would stay late until 10pm each night using these tools and realizing that the GUI of the MAC had met me  ½ way and that finally tools for designers on computers, rather than being a computer user, had arrived. Finally I went out and spent over 6k on the ONLY MacIIX not spoken for in NYC. I bought it from Rick Ocasek of the Cars fame, chock full of software for design and multimedia;) I saw the future that year;)  I started Cube3 to see where all of this new medium would go with another co worker from that agency, by 1990.

[image source]

What was the virtual reality hardware and software like in the 1990s? How do the tools of the past compare what is being used now?

Over 25 years the hardware always seems to get faster and less expensive and the software always seems to get more expensive, then all of a sudden free, then obsolete. In terms of VR and RT 3D, there were maybe 3 major hardware and software battleground eras that defined what creative projects we as designers could produce.

In the late 80s and early 90s, the 3D world first split into the high and low end price markets. Work Stations vs. PCs/Macs/Amigas. And Most VR HMDs since they were expensive devices out of tech schools and science focused engineering places, so they mainly targeted the higher end workstations. There were some PC and Mac based versions of course but most PC based 3D VR was going to be done as screen display for presentations to clients or dev work like at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).

So while I could use a software called VirtusVR for Store design or set design on a Mac or PC, others would use a Silicon Graphics, or Intergraph workstation if they were doing higher end development using HMDs etc. Most rendering on PCs was all done in software unit the later 90s anyway, so there were limits to what one could do, usually in terms of the size of models and frame rates.

When 3D video cards became common in the later 90s  it ushered in the 3D games market and RT3D finally became an “aesthetic’ people “could” like. Before that it was always considered “rough and aliasing” and only pre rendered Pixar like renderman playback movies/videos were considered “consumer ready for prime time”

Silicon Graphics was the major player in high end 3D for most of that decade. They created and marketed special software and hardware combos for VRML (O2 and Cosmo) as well as for all thing RT3D. Eventually they lost almost all market share to PCs with accelerated 3D cards from NVidia/ 3dlabs, ATI and others. That plus the abundance of finding a copy of 3D Max on every stray CDROM burn, made tools like 3D MAX and then Maya the mainstays of tools for 3d content creation. There were many outliers, that offered 3dtools for all uses, Caligari, Blender, and of course Lightwave, but Autodesk in the end consolidate the market for 3d tools in the US. meanwhile dassault of france still owns an impressive library of RT3D tools and technologies.

In RT3D there were man specialized software tools and platforms that all attempted to dominate the markets. Some were part of the VRML world, Vrealms, Vreams, Cosmo, Vizx3D etc. and some were proprietary 3d format based such as Viewpoint, Cult, Axel3D Virtools, Anark, B3D, Macromedia Shockwave 3D and many more that all kept coming and going until maybe 2006, when then a few Java based tools, Unity3D and now X3D based tools also tried to get into what was the “Second Life and Virtual Worlds” action. At that time the term VR was dead completely, and the politically correct term was “virtual worlds”  or still MMOs if you made games.

Also by the mid 2000s the entire idea of selling tools to customers in software was being changed by the VCs and web2.0 thinking. It was be a huge platform or nothing. It was not going to be about tools for people to own anymore, but a service to rent to people to also market their lives data for another ROI. At that point the entire question you asked me about comparing the software tools of the past and today becomes moot. Their entire reason and design for being is not the same as it was pre web2.0 thinking. The bottom line is that designers don’t even expect to own their  tools anymore. And that’s not a good thing.

Did you ever use the web-based Virtual Reality Markup Language (VRML)?

Yes. I first became aware of VRML as an export option for web3d in VirtusVR in 1994 or 1995. Up until that point I had been using their own 3D engine to place VR walkthroughs online in places like AOL and Compuserve and for use in client meetings on their own local PCs. VRML was a RT3D format that could be read by a web browser, the first one I used was made by Paper Software by Mike McCue. It made presenting RT3D much easier to do for a broader audience This was 1995 or so and it  was also the time of my end on relying on Apple only for computer tools and software, and what was great about VRML was the cross platform direction it was headed. So yes, I used VRML and was one of it’s earliest designer producers of content. [My company] Cube3 started it’s first NY developers group, the NYVRMLSIG, and I got AOL to use it on their first major Entertainment Network in LA in 1996. I used it on many other projects until it all was sucked up and locked away by Computer Associates in the late 90s; but by then we had all sorts of new web3d formats to kick around.

Where were people organizing get-togethers to talk about VR?

As VRML was getting more interest and looked like it might go somewhere, we formed the NYVRMLSIG. The location we met at was the newly created Alt.Coffee Cybercafe in the lower east side of Manhattan. I knew its owners and they had given free “server” range over using the place and its backrooms for SIG meetings. They were one of the first cyber cafes with T1 net access in NYC, so it was perfect. We had other gatherings as well there, and even a book on the web projects of many of the regulars was published, including the NYVRMSLIG projects like a virtual coney island. We met monthly, invited technology makers and designers to demo and guest speak. One month during the Melker New Media Show in NY the back room of the Alt.Coffee ended up hosting the first real gathering of the NY and CA VRML crowds. After the Shows planned BOF meeting in the convention hall over 100 or more tried to fit into the small back room of that cafe.It  that felt like a summer heat wave subway car ride.

As we needed larger spaces I was able to set up space at SGIs office in NYC. for a roundtable I moderated called “Places not Pages: Birth of the 3D Net” which brought together speakers that really ran the gamut from web artsy magazine publishing, to VR, to even nascent augmented reality (AR) being done at ITP school at NYU using video and public access TV!

Were their VR meetups, tradeshows, and conferences going on?

In 2002, I used the same format and with the added sponsorship of the Digital Garage and MindAvenue Software (Axel3D). I started the SFWEB group. We met monthly at the DV Garage and had demos from the makers of the web3d tools of that time. There were demos of X3D by Tony Parisi and Joe Williams,Vizx3D by Keith Victor, Demos of Anark, Viewpoint, and Cult3D. Macromedia Shockwave 3D as well as Virtools were other web3d platforms demoed.

One meeting of note took place in the Class room of new media 3D pioneer/educator Jane Veeder of SFSU, whose class was one of the early beta sites for Second Life. It was at that meeting that the managers of Second Life asked for  and were presented with the strong case for the idea of “digital ownership/commerce ” of the content made by the people using the platform.

By 2006 the Second Life craze had surfaced and the SFWEB was forgotten to the fancy parties of the nuvo virtual. Go with the flow.

You were writing articles for a couple of 3D/VR new publications in the 1990s. What types of topics were you writing about?

I actually wrote the most “mainstream media” articles about 3D/ Media and Technology in the early 1990s as the mac design /computer thing took off. I wrote two articles  for ID (Industrial Design) Magazine. The first was titled “Can you sketch on a Computer” and it put forth some thinking about design process, its speed, editing, and how the new tools might/could affect each. Im happy that 25 years later many are finally asking the same questions.

The second one was published and heavily edited. It was called the “Post material Design.” It dealt with interface design and the end of plastic nobs and asked if even the name of our profession and the magazine “Industrial Design” should be looked at being changed as we moved away from our Industrial into a Post Material virtually designed world. The editors kind of took unkindly to my idea, and the article published wasn’t what I had hoped. I didn’t write for them again. A few years later, the magazine rebranded as ID magazine (International Design).

In the mid 1990s I wrote articles for some web publications and VR magazine attempts as paper publications. One article on 2D/3D Interface you’ve just republished on the UploadVR.com website. That one has had the longest mileage. It has been asked for or republished/updated maybe 3 times since 1996.

Flashback: Virtual is Reality Again – Interface vs Interference Design

Who else was writing about VR in the 1990s?

Other than the usual Suspects who get mentioned all the time now (Rheingold’s book, WIRED, MONDO 2000, etc), I’ll toss in a few who might be less remembered or known. Great stuff came from New Media Magazine and Verbum also out of SF area. Which of course was the epicenter for all things VR Media related. There was a magazine called “Mediamattic” out of Amsterdam that I particularly liked to get in NY. It was probably only quarterly, but it was always smarter and more critical about new media than the SF magazines which always drank too much of their koolaid as they say.

MIT Media Lab publications back then had good articles and things and wasn’t also as focused on the “start up culture of entrepreneurs” as it is today. There was a “VR World” magazine that came out in the early 90s during the craze. I had done an illustration for them, a VR Carnival Barker 3D rendering. I might have a color xerox of it somewhere in an older print portfolio. It might have been done for an article on marketing VR. I might have co-wrote the article with John Gallagher, but I don’t remember.

There’s a great Nightline TV debate about VR with Jaron Lanier that someone has finally put on YouTube. Its indicative of the mainstream PR and Press of that time.


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Was there a big creative community of people experimenting with Virtual Reality?

It gets larger in each iteration. I said a long time ago (20 years) that 3DRT or VR is the last medium since it can swallow all previous media types like text, images, video, and objects.

Each new time VR or web3d gets its time in the media, it’s when a previous media is no longer being protected and coddled as much by its owners. The creative community for 25 years has become second to the tool /platform makers community. So much so, that when a platform/format is no longer financially viable to be distributed, all creative works done in that media will vanish.

Tell us about Cube3.

Cube3 was me and Designer Alex Shamson’s company we started in 1990.  We were the “early NYC evangelists, VARS, demoguys” for all things 3D Design and Multimedia. We created and gave monthly seminars on 3D design and Presentation at Apple NYC, as well as many trade shows. We got all the cool toys, wrote some cool articles, and made a lot of the cool demos for the time. We formed a few early SIGS, and sponsored/created the NYVRMLSIG.  Many who first learned about 3D /VR or computers as design tools in NYC back then, heard it at one of our meetings or seminars. We pushed the tech as far as we could; always as designers and creators “first”. We never desired to allow the technology or medium to lead the intent of what we created.

25 years later I think others are finally getting what we saw early about how “this medium actually works.” Eventually Alex (the ‘smart one’) went back to more traditional Art mediums. I moved out to California, then Florida, and I continue to use the [Cube3] name, as much as for a Virtual Avatar Tag as anything else; for all these years working on projects immersed with tech issues. So today online, I’m the OG Cube3, and [the website] will be there into the future.

How did you get involved in ‘The Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers’?

You went right back to the last page of my resume eh? ‘The Rangers’ was my first “fulltime” job out of college. I was known in my class as the “futurist designer guy” who couldn’t help but draw spaceships and robots even as I learned about the bauhaus. A few months out of school, while I was freelancing in exhibit /museum design, I got a call from another older ex-Pratt student who asked me if i was the guy who “drew the spaceships.”  I said I was, and he then introduced me to the producers of the project he had worked on creating – ‘The Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers’.


It was an animated show that would also include CGI graphics inserted into some scenes. Very much a first for a daily episodic cartoon show. I was hired and then spent the next 6 months, 6 days a week in a loft in NYC making thousands of drawings of all things sci-fi that would be traced over and animated in japan. Then I got canned because I wanted to be paid for the 6th day worked. That was that.

Eventually someone put my credit into IMDB. Post production, which a few made it too, was done back in the US, where the CGI wireframe elements were made. The entire experience was “startup” like not very different from tech startups today. 30 of us all under 30 in one big space,drawing/creating/ fighting, not sleeping, eating chinese food, and making sometimes some really good shit. I think about 60 episodes got made. No major toy deal in the US though, and it died. Though I hear it was big in France, go figure.

What was it like working on ‘Maintenance Men’s Lounge’ at ABC?

The MML experience was so much fun. It’s creator was a Senior Creative Director , John Gallagher , I worked with while I was at HMG ( he POP/Marketing agency-part of Saatchi in the 80s). He and some others were given the chance by ABC to create “the new thing” for late night TV in the early 90s. He put together a group of writers, actors, comedians, idiots, puppeteers, and drunkards all to create this hybrid comedy/video variety, cyberpunk show. I came on as the young “Terry Gilliam” of the group, and created its look, design, and also pushed it usage of technology in its narrative as well as production. We did virtual 3D sets, the first 1hr Avid Edit in NYC, and a animated overlays of characters and text that only became common graphic language in media years later.

We all had a ball making it and it truly was innovative. Too much though in the end for the ABC execs in NYC. Though the real story might have been the power struggle for the late night time slot at ABC between the east and west coast. The winner of that struggle ended up going onto becoming the Head of Disney. So the real lesson is find the right horse to ride, creativity will only make the saddle burns less bothersome.

What was the “SnowCrash CDRom”?

So as I mentioned in NYC in the early 90’s I was the “go to guy” for all things “3D, Futurism, Design, Shopping,Computer New Media.” A producer at Paramount who wanted to make Neal Stephenson’s book “Snowcrash” into a CD-ROM game and gave me a call to asked if I was interested in directing it. I thought the book was create comic book graphic novel material and said sure. He set up a meeting with Neal, himself and I.

At that meeting I learned the irony that Neal had intended the story to be a hypercard based graphic novel, but that his “artist friend” got behind in drawings and another friend had suggested he just sell it as a novel; and so it all came from that. I spent a few weeks making some early pre-production design rendering in 3D of the bar fight, and the rat thing as well as constructing the Black Sun Bar as a realtime 3D VR model in Virtus VR. We all met again. Everyone said “cool” but in the end I think Neal wanted a movie deal, not a cdrom deal, and it never went forward.

One VR caveat is that a few years later I would meet the German company named “Black Sun” later change for legal reason to “Blaxxun” and we would plop that VR Model of the BLACK SUN BAR into their VRML based Multiuser software for the web. The Black Sun Bar actually existed in cyberspace that day. It ran online at cube3.com until the software maker stopped supporting the format; decades later.


You also worked on a “DC Comics CDRom” for Paramount Publishing. What was that like?

The DC COMICS CDROM took up a huge chunk of my time in 1995. It was an interesting time because it was a pivot point in vision for me. While the big new media industry was still fascinated with CDROM publishing and games on CD-ROM, the world wide wed (WWW) and VRML had shown me that the future was direct access to “places, not only pages” of entertainment experiences online.

DC had an early web presence on AOL (around the Time Warner/AOL deal time) and they wanted to create a “special” 60th Anniversary CD-ROM project to celebrate that milestone. GT Interactive, a major game publisher,had great retail store access, licensed the DC content in the form of a Hard Cover Coffee table book on the 60th Anniversary by Les Daniels, but they needed someone who could “envision and create the world of DC as an interactive/immersion experience, not a book.”

I was brought on to make that happen. At first I wanted to try to sell the full vision of a “DC Cybersphere” which was to create a “virtual hub in cyberspace” that would be delivered on CD-ROM at retail in box, but access much of  its massive text and pictures data from the DC libraries that could be digitized and placed online and a opened up for also a member fee. Plus, I wanted to do it all in RT3DVR; as I mentioned VRML and Games in RT3D were now happening (most of GTs profits came from DOOM and Quake). That vision as I said, was too much for the time, and the project became a macromind director type 2D rendered 3D ‘Myst’ like experience with limited content and some videos chosen to highlight the vast 60 years of DC History and brands. At this time Myst set the standard for immersive 3D experiences sold to the public.

Explain the development process of the Electropolis and X-Files projects.

They took place a year before the DC Comics Project and focused on the chase by others to be the new AOL. Like today, Whats cool memes in Tech media peak and die fast. In 1993 and 1994, NY was all about big media not losing out to the new “America” Online. Rupert Murdoch of Newscorp had bought out Delphi and Kesmai Games and wanted to merge them and other properties into an Instant AOL Killer that would be grown on CDROM mass mailings. Again due to my expertise in 3D and Entertainment type projects, I was brought into these projects by a production company lead by Tom Nicholson, who was a true pre-computer pioneer of multi- media.

I was to create two prototypes for the new Delphi network. One for the Games Portal with Kesmai (who had multiuser games in 3d even then online) named “Electropolos” and the other was to be a fan based portal to bring in new users to online services. I did  a few prototype designs, but the one for the X-Files was the most satisfying in terms of intent.

Electropolis was simply sold as “The Simpsons meets Myst”, a 3D rendered set of backgrounds that would be representative of the different gaming genres. It allowed for communities to be built around forums at each node. Animated talking Characters would become the Sysops (the ancient geek word for forum manager) for each room back then they were mostly geeky guys in there 30s. Cartoon characters for them to use as avatars was the magic sold. A control bar along the bottom of the screen allowed players to set up competitions, chat, get info on each other, and interact with the hosts or get help.

The X Files Online prototype had all the same “fandom” based community tools, but it was designed to appear as a Roleplay or LARP type interface that put the viewer into the idea that they were cracking into the official X Files FBI database online. It appeared as a high tech cyber-looking green text on a black screen interface with photos and dossieres on all characters and episodes. It sounds like every Transmedia website narrative today, but this was in 1993; before the world wide web.

In fact, it was the birth of the browser based world wide web in 1994, that killed these projects by Newscorp. Two years later in mid-1995 I got a call from a young Newscorp Exec, who said he found my phone number on a business card he found on the floor of an old Newcorp leased car. They wanted me to help them again to design a games portal; but now for HTML and the WWW.

You worked with CBS and Sony, correct?

Yes. In the early 1990’s I worked with others to sell the first “digital promotional” diskettes for CBS Marketing. We pitched and created for them as the “Gang of 5” the first Mac/PC based floppy disc version of the CBS Marketalk Communication Booklets that had gone out to local stations for decades. It was a Single HD floppy chock full of 1400K graphics, pictures, and interactive fun with a fax back all delivered in a single mailer folder. A first! Its visual design was reminiscent of an electronic circuit board, a network linking all the shows and stars together. Ironically it had to work linearly (next buttons) as well as interactively (nested links) to allow the target audience to understand how to navigate it.

Soon after, maybe in 1993. I worked on the first CD-ROM SONY ever created to market a new product. Aptly it was the DV-700, the worlds first digital camcorder. This was compared to the CBS Floppy, a huge media project; a full 600MB. that could be used. We added color interview videos, illustrations, and an animated 2d/3d interface that mimicked sliding panels on plastic products in real life.  Both of these projects were fun to do, well received, and everyone knew that they were breaking new ground as we worked on them.

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You mentioned on Twitter that you once learned early on that the VR revolution of the 1990s would not amount to the hype at that time. How did that story go about?

I had a “bathroom hand drying” chat with the “product manager” or “marketing manager” from Sega for the upcoming Virtual Boy. We were both at the same lunch table at the now remembered “Mekler VR Show” in NYC in 1992. I was there with my partner John Gallagher as we were on the panel for “Marketing using VR.” We had just done the first white paper on record for Miller Brewing about using the VR LBEs etc for Promotions.

Anyhow, the BIG KAHUNA in the room that day was SEGA and this guy who represented them for the yet truly unseen Virtual Boy, at least unseen in NYC). Everyone wanted that deal, whatever that deal was. Later that day I ran into the guy in the men’s room and while we dried hands, I asked some targeted questions. I left the restroom that day with the knowledge that the VR revolution would not be happening that year, and not from SEGA.

You also briefly talked about the ‘Church of Scientology’ being interested in VR. What was their level of involvement like in the 90s?

One guy was interested. It’s not like he was Tom Cruise though. While I lived in CA, I spent a lot of my time going back and forth between LA and SF trying to merge the creative and tech worlds. That idea alone requires a full interview.

One thing I would always do if I could was go to Siggraph and Comic Con each year. Today, this might sound logical, but from about 1997 to 2005, I was one of the only guys at Comic-Con walking around with a laptop and talking up “digital media” and Transmedia Thinking. The fact that I also had 3D and VR type things on my laptop was unheard of to those still figuring out Flash.

While at the show I met a guy who was a marketing guy from Bridge Publications, who were the Sci fi publishing arm of the whole Scientology thing. He was into listening about how one could build a 3D VR world on the internet that could be filled with people globally as avatars and interacting or role playing characters from the “Battlefield Earth” movie that had come out and failed a few years earlier. Almost no one else, large or small company, media or publisher, at the show really gave my pitch the time of day; and what can I say, work is work.

Long Story Short, I returned home to SF, and we spoke again on phone. He then tried to bump up the level of meeting and began to ask me “non VR questions” to which I let him know that I doubt “that I would be scientology material.” He was to have his supervisor call me. She never did. I might have tried one more time on the phone to get to them, but the stars and the DC-8 starships obviously weren’t aligned, and there would be no Xenu VR made back then.

On your Linkedin page, you mention a project called “StarbaseC3.” What was that?

New Media projects can be long and sometimes frustrating experiences when you’re hired to help others vision of what a project should be. Even though for most of my career I’ve been lucky enough to have creative lead authority on projects paid for by a studio or publisher, sometimes you just need to make your own world and experiment and play at your own pace.  That’s how Starbase C3 came into existence. After a few non starter, non made sci-fi projects (or projects that died between publishers and platform timetables), I decided to create my own “franchise” IP.

I wanted to create the Franchise of the future now, the medium of its birth being the internet, not TV or Film. So in 1995 I created Starbase C3 to be to web, as Star Trek was to TV, or Star Wars was to FILM. Lofty goals, but in the end, it’s all happened; but for others. There was no Transmedia buzzword, there were no virtual worlds, no MMOs, no Creative Copyright licenses, no Second Lives, and no Lego Star Wars – but we did all of that by 1997.

I did meet and attempt to sell big media or technology on all of these ideas over the decades, sometimes succeeding. AOL in 1996 gave Starbase C3 the premiere slot as they launched the Entertainment Aslyum in LA, but more often receiving the sound of confused crickets in the meeting rooms of many of those who later built careers as the gurus of MMOs, virtual worlds, 3d media and transmedia thinking.

During the time though of its real life online, 1995 to 2009, it was a living prototype site for all these transmedia technologies and disciplines. For a while it grew within the walled virtual world of Second Life, since it was always comprised of ideas that Second Life utilized. In 2009, during the Facebook games excitement  a chance came to possibly refocus the world and its content a part of a social media/ VR studio I was to be funded for in LA. Then the economy melted down and so did the dream of the Starbase C3 Universe Online. Since then, Star Citizen has, down to the same font, done a great job moving that dream forward and now has the resources old media, and old technology would never give, to make it happen. Maybe they’ll name a ship after me one day.

What was cybertown?

Cybertown was an ambitions VRML based Virtual World Community started about the same time as my Starbase C3 efforts in 1995 and 1996. It also used the VRML Multi User Technology from Blaxxun and probably was the largest VRML based 3D Community online ever. It was founded by two guys out of LA (Hawk and SFX were their AV names) who also were very important in starting the LAVRMLSIG of which I became a member of when I moved to LA in 1996. It was originally called Colony City and was a Blaxxun Sponsored Project that grew with a Cybertown merger. I don’t know the particulars of who really created what, but one could rent a home in a sci fi future world, get avatars, join clubs, get a job..etc. Up until Second Life and its contender clones in the mid 2000s, Cybertown was probably the most successful, at least in terms of wide experimentation of the VR online worlds.


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In your opinion, is virtual reality here to stay this time around? And, what do you think will be the leading forces in this recent resurgence of VR?

No one can really know what will happen, but we do seem to be at a time where the elements needed for a new medium to arise and to find mass usage does exist. VR never went away, it just became separated into HMD or CAVE usage in larger corporate/military or educational institutions; or it became fast RT3D used on screens and TV sets as games. The level of immersion was different, but that didn’t mean one couldn’t make very immersive experiences for each expression of the medium

Today we have four factors that are colliding to make VR what we see happening. We have the HD small screens that came from the Smartphone product push (extending into the light reflective/lens eye technologies that AR products use) for display. We have the Death of Flash (also do to mobile) that opens up creatives looking for a medium to sell production value in and the apparent winning of webgl as a web3d format after 20 years of battles. But most importantly we have the 360 cameras and the Internet Networks Application culture that will allow for tons of content to be put into the world almost overnight. No longer will VR be only a 3D modelers or 3D photographers/scanners/media, one that takes major production skills, but one that every family member can create and put on a Facebook page. It was surreal to see the same SLIDES dealing with VR as media type that I showed to blank stares just 5 years ago being shown by Mark Zuckerberg at F8 this year. I guess I was right.

Is there anything that can stop the momentum?

Continuing my previous thoughts, not really. Not even bad content in my opinion. Even though I’d like to see much great stuff made by many and still want to be involved in making of what I’d hope would be considered “good content”. I don’t think even “bad” content can stop this wave. The financial tidal wave this time is so much greater do to those 4 converging interests I mentioned before. Look At Google Glass. It “failed” by all public measures, but Google can’t admit or maybe more accurately understand why it failed. But in terms of the ships journey over the waves, Google says they will keep on sailing forward. The end of the flat monitor, for entertainment and simulation experiences at mass usage levels is close.

The technology business,and technology itself for that matter, works to the motto “beta or obsolete” and as long as all media types can be “swallowed” by VR, the ONE ring to rule them all. The orcs ,the men, the elves, and even the single hobbit, will all want that ring.

Any thoughts on Augmented Reality (AR)?

I’ve never really separated AR from VR. I mentioned before that when I held an early public roundtable at SGI called “Places not Pages, the future of the 3D Web.” Way back in 1995, I invited both VR and AR experts of the day to speak and contribute. We’ve always “augmented reality” via designed objects and artifacts as long as we’ve been modern humans. We’ve at the same time always had a “virtual life” within ourselves as our thoughts and dreams, which would be expressed outward as art.

So to me, both AR and VR are expressions of the same desires to find some control over the universe via our wits and skills. In practical terms, I do think most public usages of these technologies will be in examples of what’s called AR today, which will be mainly driven by the desire to respect the “other” in society; while most usage of VR will be in singular, safe environments like the home or when seated alone while traveling.

I hope most  people don’t desire to exist alone for a lifetime separate from nature-reality, even if everything seems virtually perfect in their head domes. In fact that was the underlying cautionary tale of the STARBASE C3 narrative. It’s still a good VR adventure, maybe one day I’ll get to finally make it fully in its true medium.

Tell us about your Indiegogo campaign.

This week I’ve taken all I learned from all the 3D/VR waves I’ve surfed over the last decades and decided to merge that with an attempt at a crowdfunded project. It’s a project that one really couldn’t create without crowdfunding being at it’s core.

It’s called “The Mediaverse:The VR MuseuCON of POP Culture”  A VR World for all Things Pop Culture and Fandom.

Imagine a Mashup of the Smithsonian Institution, Disneyworld and Comic-Con that’s designed and created now, during the time of VR.

The Mediaverse MuseuCON is to be a VIRTUAL PLACE on the Internet, that combines the text of Fandom Wikipedias, with videos and images and 3D environments and artifacts that span the POP culture universe. There are 12 or more planned POP Culture Media Spheres that encompass the history of the different Genres that have made our Fandom culture for over 60 years. For example,  Comic Book Culture, SCI-FI Fantasy Genre, Comedy, Pop Music, Advertising, Tech Gadgets, etc. All illustrated as 3D VR experiences that edutain and inform everyone and that are hosted by a group of experts in each area. I’ve got some team members lined up, others I hope the IndieGogo will fund and attract.

We plan to take a modular approach to building and designing the Mediaverse MuseuCON.

The first crowdfunding success will be targeted to preliminary design, gathering of some curated content, team building and a creating a limited VR environment to explore and meet up at in Virtual Reality. An Open Sims early demo version space is live now hosted on www.kitely.com

It has many of the VR theaters and Sci-Fi Buildings and classic Sci-Fi spaceships on display that I had used in my Second Life Communities for years. It’s rough, but a start.

If we pass certain milestones, we will increase our production and scope to build out the Mediaverse quicker and with more and more of Fandoms wants. Should we build a Dr. Who Tribute World first? Or a Star Wars Zone? Maybe a Zone dedicated to Female Characters and their Creators in Science Fiction and Fantasy? Should we create a Punk Rock Club that celebrates places like CBGB’s that are no longer with us? What about a Full Sized Godzilla? We want the fan community to help fund and vote on much of what gets built when and first.

Whichever 3D engine(s) we finally use , or HMDs we support, or multiple 3D VR techs we use will all depend on what’s ”the best thing” as we release and grow the Mediaverse. Our goal is to make a VR world that’s easy for all to use, accessible to all, and most of all, fun and entertaining to experience and learn in. I want to let the design and content to suggest the tech, so often its the other way around.

People interested can view the Galleries to see some of the designs and Ideas we’ve put up.

The website is at www.mediaverse.net and the Indegogo Page is Live Now at


It can be a really exciting long term VR project, and I hope both fans of POP media, and the VR community would help make it happen. We live in the Mediaverse, spend all this time making it, but need more museums and flashback type projects to keep us informed about where we’ve been so we can better know where we want to go.

Where can people find more information about you? How can they contact you?

I’ve been online at www.cube3.com since 1995. Same email: larryr@cube3.com, same pair of virtual pants. The sites galleries are full of images from the 25 years of 3D/VR type project I’ve worked on. Please feel free to visit, and If i can assist others in areas of all things 3Dmedia  and VR. Please let me know. I’m around.

VR History 101 – Movie Time with Mr.Lobo. c. 2008

screaming room

VR group movie watching is becoming a thing with the Oculus Theater app.. In 2008 we held a few Cinema Insomnia sleepless night’s watching B- Movies with Horror Host Mr. Lobo in a 3DRT browser based “Screaming Room”

VR History 101 – AP Virtual NewsRoom Demo c.2009


VR Journalism is now getting some attention. I created this Multi-User browser based News Room Demo in 2009 after talking with some at the Associated Press. The Concept was to bring “news junkies” together in VR online to watch and comment of News events. Build a citizen Journalist community.

VR History 101. SFWEB3D Meetings 2002-3


I found- well actually didn’t even remember i had left this on my server- the old homepage and meeting pages for the SFWEB3D group that met and demoed VR RT3D things in San Fran from about 2001-3. You’ll see lots of companies and names that if you’re new to VR will draw a blank:)  Even the main sponsor MINDAVENUE who made a pre UNITY product called AXEL3D will most likely draw WTF?. It was a great tool and if the timing and the makers resources had been different, well….

Anyhow. Fodder for those interested in VRs and RT3D past. Best way to figure out it’s future.:)

360 VR History 101. QTVR 1999-2002 . Found Some CGI 3D Samples I had done.

here’s a blast from the past. about 13 years ago:) 360 video VR as it was.  It was by Apple. and called Quicktime VR.:) and their were a few early pioneers using it.


Requires QTVR Plugin. I tested it on Chrome and Firefox. seem to load fine.

This CGI Created SCI FI Scene, Originally made in 2002. Was Rendered in MojoWorld, a 3d planet maker:) Made by those who had made Bryce 🙂

The Starbase C3 Spaceships were offered as the first drop into a planet library objects for sale.

the original page with the offer is at http://www.starbasec3.com/pattitvr.html

I found this online- the SFWEB3D 2002 meeting about the Software and 360 panoramas.. note the post about ” its  definitely not VRML” 😉  the more things change, the more they stay the same. even then the forces of  realtime 3d vs rendered/or camera recorded environments was going on.


FOUND- Early VR from the NYVRMLSIG in 1995. VR Altdotcoffee Cybercafe.


This Cyber cafe is where the first NYVRMLSIG used to meet monthly. This realtime 3D model was built using Virtus VR and could be walked through on the WWW. That back room once held almost every VR type person one night in 1996.;)