3D rendering plays an instrumental role in how we create, live, and conduct business. It’s used in so many industries including movies, advertising, video games, construction, and medicine – among many others. Everywhere you turn you’re bound to cross paths with something that’s been 3D rendered. There’s no denying that this technology has become a staple component of the way our world operates – and like most innovations, it came from humble beginnings.
Back in 1964, William Fetter, a graphic designer at Boeing, created the first human figure as a 3D model for an airline pilot alongside a team of engineers and programmers. According to the January 1965 issue of Architectural Record magazine, Fetter “..achieved the results he desired by describing the process of perspective drawing on a chalk board, and letting others write a computer program for the mathematically equivalent operations.” From there, his development team continued to advance the technology, eventually dubbing the emerging field “computer graphics.”
Meanwhile, Ivan Sutherland was busy at MIT building Sketchpad: an innovative program that opened up the doors to alternate forms of interaction with computers. With Sketchpad users could draw horizontal and vertical lines, define relationships of segments and arcs, and manipulate these elements in a variety of ways. This program was the first of its kind to offer drafting functionality, setting the bar for the graphics industry to develop from.
In the following decades the 3D industry really started to blossom. From Martin Newell’s famous teapot to Edwin Catmull and Frederic Parke’s short film A Computer Animated Hand, the world of 3D rendering was gaining serious momentum. Catmull and Parke also worked on a movie called Future World in 1976, which became the first major feature film to utilize computer generated images.
Over the years, rendering engines have evolved from a proprietary technology to a publicly licensed technology, bringing 3D rendering to our fingertips. Applications like Pixar’s Renderman and V-Ray are prime examples of the availability of advanced professional tools for public use. Now anyone with a laptop can dive into the world of 3D rendering and create a stunning visual. Having this powerful software accessible to the masses allows for more rapid advancement of our technologies and capabilities, and more exploration into 3D rendering’s uses in our world.
The future looks bright and captivating for the world of 3D rendering. One of the most striking applications of 3D rendering being explored today is augmented reality. Augmented Reality is the integration of digitally modeled information into a user’s environment. An early example of this technology is the first-down line shown on the field during football games.
Now, Augmented Reality is expanding into wearable headsets – like Google Glass and Microsoft Hololens – and becoming a gateway to blend our external reality with the processing power and creativity of the digital realm. We may soon be able to project a 3D rendering of a friend on another continent onto our couch for a real-time hangout session – with stunning clarity. Things that were once thought of as science fiction are now on their way to becoming probable realities and 3D rendering technology is a key element of driving these ideas forward.
- Nick Ingrisani