Author: Justin Couch
Last updated: $Date: 2004-04-30 04:50:26 $
Revision: $Revision: 1.3 $
Xj3D is a collection of code that implements the X3D specification to provide
a VRML and X3D browser. There are also many other goals in producing this
codebase. The motivation for the design decisions and architecture of the
underlying codebase is explained here.
The basic codebase started with a donation from
Java 3D group in
1999. This code was a basic VRML 97 capable browser and simple viewer. Slow
progress on the codebase was aimed at providing more complete capabilities.
With the start of the X3D specification it was decided to use this codebase
as the basis for experimentating with how the specification could be
implemented. The new specification, having both the traditional UTF-8
encoding and an XML encoding, had a lot more flexibility. With XML, it would
provide the ability to access it using the web browser using the Document
Object Model. At the same time, there was a desire to merge the internal
scripting and external authoring interface with a more complete system.
Both had strengths, but also suffered significant weaknesses.
Although the original codebase was aimed at just providing a browser to see
content with. While this is an acceptable goal, it was felt by some of the
developers that a wider set of goals for the code would also be useful to
help adoption of the new coming specification. Also, because the code was to
aid an experimental role of an unknown specification, it would pay to be as
flexible as possible.
In the architecture you see here, there are three primary goals:
From this, you can see that performance is not a goal of this codebase. We
do attempt to provide efficient implementation of algorithms, but it is not
the primary motivator of the architecture. We do not pretend to present a
high performance browser implementation. If you require this, then we suggest
that you purchase one of the commercial browsers available.
- Provide proof that the full X3D specification can be implemented.
- Build code to encourage working groups to experiment with extensions.
- Encourage adoption of the specification by dividing the code into a lot
of smaller reusable components that can be incorporated into other
The structural overview will provide a description of the basic components,
why they are this way and how they relate to each other. A description of
each component with more detail is found in the
Component Summary section.
Figure 1 presents the UML component diagram of the main parts of the
architecture. Each component represents something that could be taken
as a separate piece and used within an application. Although it would be
possible to use smaller parts of a given component, the design does not
cater to this use as it is prefered to use the larger parts.
Figure 1: UML Component Diagram of the Xj3D Architecture
We break the components into areas that represent a distinct set of
functionality that may operate standalone. There is no real central component,
although the functionality revolves around the X3D abstract specification
and therefore our abstract internal model of the same. This component
represents the core of the scene graph as presented by VRML and the abstract
The basic goal of the architecture is to provide separated components that are
not interdependent. You should be able to build a heirarchical set of
relationships amongst the components starting from a minimal set and expanding
outwards. In order to do this, the majority of the functionality is designed
as a set of interfaces, over which an implementation is provided. Thus the
abstract required functionality is described by the interface and one component
only makes use of another component's services through the interface. A user can
then replace piecemeal parts of the implementation with thier own custom
functionality should the desire arise.
The structure of interfaces and implementations is mirrored right through the
design - down to the lowest level. As you look into each component, the
interactions between parts of the component are described in the same way. The
goal is that no piece of code shall contain circular compilation dependencies.
If there is a need for this, the design is wrong or not correctly abstracted,
and the changes are made. Thus, you will see cases where there is an interface
used to define something that is effectively a private communication between
two separate classes.
Around the core set of components, there are more components that either
make direct use of a renderer or provide a shell to it. These components
are the way that a typical end-user of the toolkit would interact with the
codebase. For example, in the Java3D world, they like to use a system called
a loader, which provides a common abstraction of the file loading process that
is independent of the file format. However, a user in a Web browser, may want
to interact with an XML Document and through the DOM model, so we need to
provide components that deal with the DOM-specific integration issues.
In the following sections we give a brief outline of each component and what
it does. In a future revision of this document, it will include links to
much more detailed documentation for each component.
The VRML model assumes a core set of functionality that a browser must
provide. These are simple things like details about the browser implementation,
status information and the functionality represented by the various objects
Browser in the specifications. This component presents
the abstract representation and some basic implementation of this capability.
Some parts are, by definition, renderer-specific and so interfaces are used
to represent the required functionality.
The abstract model is the representation of the abstract model defined by
the X3D specification (ISO/IEC 19775-1). These describe all of the
functionality that would be needed to implement a runtime model regardless of
the renderer used.
Both VRML97 and X3D define APIs to create and manage a browser. Despite the
different APIs, there is a great deal of commonality required and this
component provides the needed infrastructure and implementation.
Both VRML97 and X3D define scripting APIs. Scripting is progammatic access
to the scene graph using a number of languages. The functionality is similar
regardless of language and this component represents and manages all of the
The runtime handling of the VRML event model is provided by this package. All
aspects are at least represented here, but not all implemented. Some parts of
the event model require intimate knowledge of the rendering engine being used
so where this is required, interfaces are defined. All functionality is
defined as interfaces, and where it can be renderer-independent, it will
provide a default implementation that is specification compliant.
Taking a basic file or stream of bytes and turning it into a running scene
graph is the job of the parsing component. In this design, the parsing is a
standalone process that has no idea about the nodes. The component's only role
is to process the stream and issue a series of events that describe the
structure to a listener. It is up to the rendering component and others to
make use of the event information to build a live, running scene graph.
VRML, as file format and runtime system is very heavily dependent on networking
interaction. Anything but the most trivial file will reference at least one
external file, in the form of a texture, script, externproto or inline. In
order to support the more advanced extensions to VRML, such as the Universal
Media Library, we need to support URNs as well as the more common URLs. These
are not supported in the core JDK toolkits, so this component provides all of
the low-level interfaces for dealing with fetching and processing content at
the lowest level.
At the lowest level of 3D graphics rendering, there is a rendering API. This
has the job of taking the instructions provided by the VRML scene graph and
turning it into something real. As figure 1 shows, there are a number of
different renderers, so this section will break down the design of each
renderer and explain how it operates in the global context.
One of the most popular extensions to the core Java3D rendering API, is the
Loader interface. This interface, as part of the utilities toolkit provided
by Sun, is an abstraction of the file loading process that is independent of
the file format to load. VRML is just one of many (see the
J3D loader archive for
more details). This component is our implementation of the Loader interface to
load VRML97 and X3D files.
3D graphics requires a lot of vector maths. This component provides an
efficient, standalone representation of the code that performs this function.
Many applications don't want to restrict X3D information to just 3D land. In
applications like editors and data visualisers, a 2D view of the data is
wanted as well. This component provides a number of useful utility classes
for use within a Swing environment.
Within the current code, we are staying to the lower level DOM classes. That
is, all the components presented here will work with any DOM tree passed to
it. There is no requirement to use X3D trees. In is envisaged that in the
future X3D specific components will be added to the mix here.