Think 3D

Read more

New group tasked with bringing clarity to disruptive technology

By Don Carli

If you want to see how e-commerce and 3D computer graphics are disrupting the retail market, look no further than home furnishings. Research from Statista estimates that U.S. retail e-commerce revenue for the market segment will grow to more than $100 billion by 2022, up from $65.1 billion in 2018.

The growing importance of e-commerce is also increasing the use of photorealistic 3D imagery, which was first pioneered by IKEA in 2005. 3D imagery also is creating the need for standards to manage the color and appearance of 3D content. In addition, home furnishing retail brands are likely to value high-impact digital print applications employing the new iccMAX (ISO 20677) standard for color and appearance management, which can leverage new open standards under development for 3D content.

Today, nearly every major furniture brand has 3D initiatives underway. Both online and brick and mortar retailers are experimenting with 3D computer graphics, physically based renderings, and augmented reality (AR) technologies to reduce the time and expense associated with creating content, re-using content and delivering more immersive e-commerce customer experiences.

Neil Trevett, president of the Khronos Group, says 3D content is poised to become pervasive in retail. The Khronos Group is a member-funded non-profit industry consortium of more than 160 leading hardware and software companies that has been developing open, royalty-free standards for 3D graphics, AR and virtual reality (VR), vision and machine learning for 20 years.

But despite the trend toward the ubiquity of 3D content, there is a lack of cross-platform standards for displaying virtual product models. This is preventing the color and appearance of 3D content from being experienced consistently.

Shrenik Sadalgi, director of the Next R&D Group at Wayfair, is chairing the newly formed 3D Commerce Working Group, a collaboration of more than 160 leading retail and technology brands, including IKEA. The group is tasked with exploring the opportunity to accelerate the adoption of 3D experiences by establishing a set of universal standards for platform-agnostic 3D model creation and distribution.

The new 3D Commerce Working Group is breaking new ground in a number of ways. “Before this, Khronos working groups were primarily composed of tech companies,” Trevett says. “Either the platform vendors like Google, the GPU vendors like Nvidia, or the tools vendors like Dassault or Autodesk. But now we actually have ‘end-user’ brands joining us, and that’s a first for Khronos.”

Trevett hopes this will be the first of many, particularly because it makes the group more effective in identifying and solving industry problems. “It is a new experience for us to have assembled such a diverse group. It’s a bit like herding cats at this point, but it’s a herd of very smart, cooperative cats.”

Sadalgi believes the industry needs standards and guidelines so that 3D content can be experienced consistently across a variety of platforms and on a variety of devices. Other challenges that standardization can help address include optimizing industry workflows to minimize cost, and bringing down barriers to entry for retailers and technologists alike. “Bringing this kind of radical change across the retail industry will require collaboration between many different retail and technology companies.”

That is why the Khronos Group is making it a priority to establish the first equivalent of the JPEG for 3D. Enter the 3D Commerce Working Group, which is expected to incorporate previous Khronos standards such as OpenXR, WebGL, glTF and Vulkan (see sidebar, “3D Commerce Synergy with Other Khronos Standards”).

“Bringing this kind of radical change across the retail industry will require collaboration between many different retail and technology companies.”
— Shrenik Sadalgi, Director of Next R&D Group, Wayfair

In addition, Trevett sees the group incorporating advanced open standards for color and appearance management like iccMAX (ISO 20677), which support the consistent representation of expanded-gamut color and appearance in digital media as well as 2D, 2.5D and 3D print media.

As more brands begin to create imagery with CGI and 3D graphics, standards like iccMAX (ISO 20677) and the work of the ICC to create color visual appearance specifications that go beyond current color management practices will become mission-critical. In addition, groups like Association for PRINT Technologies (APTech) are leading the effort to raise awareness around iccMAX and other open standards.

3D commerce synergy with other Khronos standards

The 3D Commerce Working Group, a newly formed arm of the Khronos Group, is leveraging and helping guide the evolution of other Khronos open standards, including:

  • glTF for transmission of photorealistic 3D assets
  • WebGL for interactive 3D applications on the Web
  • Vulkan for high-performance, interactive 3D graphics for applications such as Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR)
  • OpenXR for enabling AR and VR applications that are portable across multiple vendor platforms
  • OpenVX for portable, power-efficient vision processing and inferencing used in AR and scanning applications