Virtual Reality Modeling Language (VRML) is a programming language used to create 3D graphics, objects, and animation.
VRML, an acronym that stands for Virtual Reality Modeling Language or Virtual Reality Markup Langauge, is pronounced vermal or as initials V-R-M-L. VRML is a plain text programming language that can be thought of as the 3D equivalent of HTML. What HTML is to webpage markup, VRML is to 3D object markup.
VRML code is written in plain text, and saved using the .wrl file extension. VRML files can be viewed and edited in a plain text editor, but the 3D renderings they produce must be viewed in a VRML browser, or another program, such as a web browser, that is equipped with a VRML plugin.
A single .wrl file written in VRML produces a 3D space, and different planes and surfaces in the space can be hyperlinked to external resources, much in the same way that HTML files can link to external resources. The properties of the surfaces within the space can be specified in the VRML code, and the space can be navigated by using the directional arrows on a keyboard, giving the impression of moving within 3D space.
During the period of time during which VRML's popularity peaked typical internet connection speeds weren't adequate for delivering virtual reality. As a result, VRML never achieved widespread acceptance and has primarily been used for educational and experimentation purposes. More recently, VRML has been superseded by X3D which is striving to become the standard language for 3D rendering on the Web.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are languages like VRML used for?
Virtual reality (VR) is a rapidly growing technology. While VR delivered in a web browser is not yet commonplace, it will be in the near future. VRML, in the past, and X3D today, are intended for use in developing VR web applications. In order for VR to be delivered effectively over the web, it must be able to be rendered by modern mainstream web browsers. Languages such as VRML and X3D are conceived and developed with the aim of eventually achieving adoption by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and web browser developers as a standard web language with widespread browser support.
3D programming languages are also commonly used to transfer objects in 3D modeling software. One example would be the use of .wrl format VRML files to import elements in engineering CAD drawings.
What application can I use to view VRML files?
Since VRML is no longer under development, and has been superseded by X3D if you have VRML files you want to work with, your options are a little bit limited. Some CAD applications, including Autodesk 3DS, can import and work with VRML objects. In addition, Cortona3D Viewer, is an application that is free for non-commercial use, and works as a VRML plugin for popular browsers and office applications, allowing you to view VRML objects in common applications.