Cosmo Player was Cosmo Software's Virtual Reality Modeling Language (VRML) browser.
It was available as a plug-in for HTML browsers,
and enabled users to see and navigate through three-dimensional (3D) worlds
available on the Web.
Click to see the full-sized version
Interaction Design Lead: Susan (Kropf) Gorbet
Interaction Programming and Design: David Brown
Graphic Design: Mike Whistler and Gabriella Marks at Construct Internet Design
With many contributions by the entire Cosmo Player team
Navigating in 3D on a computer monitor with a mouse and keyboard is an
inherently difficult problem. Users have no peripheral vision, must
map 2D movement into 3D navigation, and generally spend a great deal of
time upside-down or banging into walls.
We created an interface that was hailed in the VRML community as a giant
step forward for 3D browsers. Cosmo Player 2.0 was included in the initial
release of Netscape 4.0, and millions of people downloaded it from the
Cosmo site as well. Cosmo Player 2.0 was the also the first VRML browser
to be fully compliant with the VRML97 Specification.
Among the innovations we added were:
To read more about how Cosmo Player 2.0/2.1 works, read this
quick help page that I wrote for our early beta releases.
- Cursors and controls gave tightly coordinated feedback,
so that modes and results of actions were clearly visible to users.
- "Cascading help" gave novices extensive descriptions of every
control, but was simple for experts to turn off.
- Controls could be used with mouse only, keyboard only, or a
combination of both.
- Crosshair plus "rubber band" line indicated mouse click point plus drag
distance, and enabled better user mapping of 2D input into 3D movement.
- The list of author-created shortcuts to interesting places in a 3D world
was always visible.
- Undo/Redo Move buttons let users move back to previous positions.
- Snap-to-level feedback when tilting up and down helped users orient themselves.
- Disallowing any roll around the z (forward/backward) axis meant that users
never wound up upside-down accidentally. Users could look up and down and even
travel in the direction they were looking, but when turning, they always
maintained a vertical orientation in the world.
- Movement algorithms accounted for window size, forward movement speed, etc.,
to make turning seem natural. Turning 90° felt like 90°, which is harder than it sounds.
- "Fly" mode (which was required by the VRML specification) was presented to
users simply as movement with "gravity" off, rather than a whole new set
of controls for users to learn.
- A new "examine" algorithm allowed users to rotate objects and still be able to get them back to the starting position. Again, harder than it sounds.
Download Cosmo Player 2.1 from Computer Associates, which now owns the software.
Also see an interview with me called Interfacing the VRML world
and my tips on Authoring for Navigation in 3D Worlds.
Feedback from the VRML community
"Susan, thank you, thank you, thank you!"
- Mark Pesce, one of the original inventors of VRML
In early 2001, the VRML community took a poll on the best VRML browser.
Even 3 years after its launch, Cosmo Player was the clear favorite.
directly to the poll or start at the Vapourtech
main VRML page and click on the Polls link.