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5. Sources of model databases

To determine the availability of model databases on the World Wide Web (WWW) a search was carried out. The search was carried out on a number of Internet search tools including Lycos, Infoseek, Altavista and HotBot using the search strings "3D Model Databases" and "3D Object Archives". Where it was possible, the search was carried out with the string used as a phrase rather than as separate words to limit the number of 'hits' that were detected. A number of links were also followed from other web sites. In particular the VR-SIG links and the Ultimate 3D Links site were used. A review of the databases found can be seen in section 5.1 below.

Sources on the WWW

The following review represents the number of model databases found on the WWW during a search carried out in November 1996. This review can not be said to be comprehensive due to the very nature of the WWW itself but represents what is believed to be a cross section of models available for a number of different platforms. Again, due to the vagaries of the WWW it can not be said that these models databases will be represented in the same format as they are at the time of writing. Many will change on a daily or weekly basis, some (especially the smaller sites maintained by an individual) will cease to exist and some may change locations. The purpose of this review is to give some indication as to the location, number, type and variety of objects that are available for download.

A Review of Model Databases on the World Wide Web

  1. The UK VR-SIG Object Archive

    This archive is maintained by Martin Reddy for the UK VR Special Interest Group and is probably the most comprehensive object archive in the UK. Central to the archive is the object supermarket where the objects reside. Objects are held for a number of file formats including:

    There is also a link to the VR-Art Virtual Gallery.

    A wide variety of objects are available for all the file types including vehicles, shapes, room interiors and molecular models. There is also great variation in the size of the object. For example, Division DVS models range from 1K to 8749k in size.

    One of the major advantages of this site is that in most cases the user can choose to view the object as a 2D bitmap (.BMP). This means that the correct object can be selected before the downloading commitment is made.

    The site also contains a number of converters to allow the user to change from one file format to another (for example Autocad (.DXF) to Open Inventor (.IV)). Furthermore, there is information on file formats, a search tool, a list of other useful web sites and archives, software information and a facility for the user to upload their own models so that they can be placed in the archive.

  2. The 3D Studio Object Archive

    This title is used as there appears to be little in the way of information on the site. It appears that the archive is maintained at the University of Dusseldorf although no names or contact numbers are provided.

    The actual archive itself consists of 605 models for the 3D Studio file format arranged in alphabetical order which range from objects such as ants to anvils to star trek vehicles. No thumbnail images are viewable so it is not possible to view the object without first downloading it. Objects in the archive range from less than 1Kbytes to 570Kbytes in size.

  3. Viewpoint Data Labs

    Viewpoint Data Labs of Utah maintain a large commercial web site that offers a number of facilities. The basis of the site is a large reference library of over 5000 3D objects that can be viewed and purchased by the site user. Viewpoint indicate that the objects are available in over 75 formats and in varying resolutions. The "Gold" collection contains objects of medium resolution which are generally comprised of less than 10,000 polygons and the "platinum" collection comprises objects of high detail and resolution. The objects are grouped by category rather than format and the categories include US cars and trucks, military and space, internal and external anatomy and geography. In addition there is also a "limited edition" set of collections grouped under the headings air power, real time graphic games, NURBS, earth imaging, 3D USA and Magellan geographix.

    Viewpoint also offer a vis/sim database of models optimised for real time work. These models can be obtained in ascending order of cost as geometry only, geometry and textures or geometry, textures and two levels of detail.

    There is also the facility at Viewpoint to acquire a number of free objects, including 105 VRML models, by registering with them and obtaining a password.

  4. The Avalon Archive

    Viewpoint, since June 22nd 1996, also now maintain the Avalon Object Archive. In comparison to the Viewpoint site, however, all the objects available here are free to download. From the home page the user is invited to enter the site by clicking on one of four portals. These portals reflect the main site at Viewpoint and three mirror sites located at Washington University (FTP Site), Prague and Italy. While reviewing these sites for this report, access was found to be slow to all sites.

    Again, the main area of interest at Avalon is an archive of 3D objects which can be downloaded freely by the site user. The objects are, in a similar way to the Viewpoint site, grouped by category rather than by file type. There are fourteen categories of objects including aircraft, anatomy, plants, space and water craft. To review a list of these objects it is necessary to click on the category and a text description of the models under that category will appear. Some objects can also be viewed as 2D images (if a "th" appears beside the text description) whereas many can not. Clicking on the text description will bring up the file type, size, a thumbnail image (if available, see Figure 4 below) and the author of the object.

    Figure 4. A typical thumbnail image from the Avalon site. This is the 2D image for the VR Head Mounted Display Model.

    It would appear that most of the objects in this archive are in 3D Studio file format although some Wavefront files are also available.

    In addition to the sites collection of objects there are also a number of other useful facilities. The site also makes available forty six data translators that allow conversion between various file types. Examples include translators to convert from AutoCAD (.DXF) format to 3D Studio (.3DS) or Inventor (.IV). A list of format specifications for a number of packages is available for download as are various compression utilities (such as WinZip and PKZip) and a number of useful 3D Studio utilities. An upload facility, to allow authors to include their own models in the archive, is also provided on a very comprehensive collection of useful information.

  5. Mesh Mart

    This site is maintained by Richard Tilmann and it would appear that it has not been updated since 1995.

    The site basically mirrors the objects that can be found at Avalon, although all of those here have a thumbnail image that can be viewed prior to download.

    Has a limited tools and utilities page and a good library page.

  6. 3D Cafe

    The 3D Cafe can be found located within the Platinum Pictures Productions commercial web site. The 3D Cafe markets itself as the " ultimate resource for computer graphic artists" and appears to be a mix between a commercial site and a free object archive. To enter the free archive one must first agree to a usage licence agreement. The free object archive contains objects in the following file formats:


    Again, the archive is subdivided in categories rather than by file type, the nineteen categories including anatomy, computing, military and a rather novel horror section!

    The objects for each category are displayed when the user clicks on the category name. It is difficult to determine the exact number of objects but the claim is made on the site that the 3D Cafe is the largest model library in the world. The user is also given the option of loading thumbnail images for the majority of the objects at this stage. A typical thumbnail can be seen below.

    Figure 5. A thumbnail obtained from the anatomy section of the 3D Cafe archive. The object is entitled "Dominique riding a unicorn!".

  7. Model Masters

    Model masters maintain a small, mainly commercial site. The commercial libraries are divided into two main areas, an interiors library and a transportation library. The interiors library contains the type of objects one would expect to find in a house or office including various types of chair, tables, dressers and home sports equipment. The transportation library contains models of various automobiles (see thumbnail below), aircraft, trains and trucks.

    Figure 6. A thumbnail of the VW Golf GTI model (8061 polygons) in the model masters commercial library.

    These models are available in for purchase in 3DS, DXF, and LW file formats but are not available for free download.

    There are a limited number (5) of models available for free download from this site. These models are essentially a subset of the interior models and are comprised of a sofa, a globe, a coffee maker, a light fitting and an exercise stepper. All of these models can be downloaded in any one of five formats (3DS, DXF, IOB, LW, OBJ, and HRC).

    The site text also suggests that a further library will be available soon.

  8. World ToolKit Users Group Archive

    This FTP site is maintained by Terry Fong of NASA's Intelligent Mechanisms Group. As the name suggests, this site contains approximately 200 models, the majority of which are downloadable in Sense8 neutral file format (.NFF) readable by World Tool Kit but some files are also available in AutoCAD (.DXF) and Amiga Videoscape (.VID) formats.

    The collection consists of objects such as simples shapes (various cubes etc.) through to more complex models such as cars, household objects and animals. The objects range in file size from 1K to over 600K but there are no thumbnail images that can be viewed so the user must download the model to view it properly. The text on the pages would also indicate that this archive has not been updated since 1993. Martin Reddy indicates that many of these objects are mirrored at the UK VR-SIG site.

  9. 3D Eye Inc.

    3D Eye of Georgia, USA maintain a commercial web site.

    Only three free models available in four formats. However, they do sell models and there are several thousand with thumbnail images that can be viewed on this site.

  10. Anders Viscontis

    Only four objects in COB format.

  11. Byte by Byte Soft FX Pages

    Limited number of models (11) for this format only.

  12. NewTek Lightwave Object Archive

    An FTP site containing a number of models for the lightwave format. There are approximately 60 objects available here, but no 2D images are available to view the models before download. A text index is provided, however, a section of which can be seen below.

    FILE: snubfigh.lzh SIZE: 18810 bytes
    DESCRIPTION: This is a small space fighter I made in Modeler 3.0. It contains a scene file with the limited hierarchy intact.

    FILE: geosat.lzh SIZE: 54702 bytes
    DESCRIPTION: A detailed-multi object of a ComSat. LW3D format. Much of the surfacing already done.

    FILE: vorlon2.lzh SIZE: 55251 bytes
    DESCRIPTION: Vorlon Fighter, not to be confused with other Vorlon ships. Great object and scene file.

    Figure 7. A section of the index from the NewTek Lightwave Object Archive

  13. Flash Fire Designs

    A number of models for sale for the following file formats:

    No free objects though!

  14. Lava

    The Lava site contains fourteen downloadable architectural models. Some models are replications of existing buildings such as Lloyds of London and the Kitakyushu City Museum of Art, whereas others are the modeller’s own designs. Each model can be downloaded in one or more of the following file formats:

    DXF, DWG, 3DS, AVI, and WRL.

  15. 3D-Active

    This commercial site contains 5 free downloadable objects in Apple QuickDraw format (.3DMF) with thumbnail images. The objects are a tricycle, microscope, key ring, lamp and spider.

  16. Acuris 3D-Models

    The Acuris site is a commercial site with a number of models that can be purchased by the user. There are also four models and some textures that can be obtained free. The current objects are a chair, an F-16 fighter aircraft, a Porsche car and a vase of flowers although these models may change on a monthly basis. These models can be obtained in the following file formats:

    3DS, 3DMF(mac), DXF, DXFp(mac), and OBJ

    In addition, it is also possible to purchase a number of data translators which can convert, for example, Autodesk 3ds to Wavefront OBJ, Open Inventor iv to Apple 3dmf and Wavefront OBJ to Autodesk 3ds. It must be stressed again, however, that these translators can not be downloaded freely.

  17. Aminet

    Aminet is advertised as the "the world's largest Amiga software archive" and is divided into a number of sections such as games, development software and hardware. The object archive is contained within the Graphics section of the web site and contains approximately 300 models. All of the objects are downloadable in the .LHA file format for Imagine. No thumbnail images are supplied for the models.

  18. Animotion

    Animotion provide the "Prop Shop" for users wishing to download 3D objects. Although the company offer a number of models for sale in the following categories:

    Civil, People, Technology, Nautical and Miscellaneous

    they also provide ten free objects that can be downloaded. This group contains objects such as a reception desk, a wall clock, a street light and a video wall. These objects can all be viewed as 2D images before download. Animotion stress, however, that these objects can be utilised in the users work but cannot be redistributed or resold in any form. All of the objects available, both free and for sale, are available in either .3DS, .DXF or both file formats.

  19. Bit Garden

    This is a small Japanese site of models created by Tatsuo-M. There are five free downloadable models, which can be viewed as 2D images, of a piece of cake, a plate, a fork, a fossilised rock and a pencil and vary in size from 54K (plate) to 720K (rock). These objects are available for the STRATA format.

  20. Caltech's RenderMan Repository

    The site will be of interest to anyone who uses the RenderMan interface. There are 10 free downloadable models on this site along with a link to a further repository of Star Trek objects. The objects include a light bulb, a mechanical gear animation and a teapot, all with viewable 2D images. The objects can only be downloaded in RenderMan file format (.RIB).

    Also available on the site are shaders, texture maps and various other goodies that will be useful to those using this package.

  21. Cyberware

    The objects available from this site can be found on an FTP link from the Headus (metamorphosis) pages. Headus is a 3D scanning and digitising bureau based in Australia and appears to specialise in scans of human heads. There are six downloadable objects available from this site and they are called a hip, dino, fist, horse, isis and jasonhead. It is not possible to view 2D images of these objects so the user is committed to downloading before they can be viewed. File formats available include .3DS, .PLY and .OBJ although not all of the objects are available in all formats.

  22. Electric Streetcar

    This site is entirely devoted to establishing a collection of models of electric mass transit vehicles. Currently, it is possible to download 6 models of various tramcars used in the United States. These models can be downloaded in Lightwave, 3DS, Wavefront, Form Z and 3DMF file formats. The type 5 car is also available in VRML format.

    Figure 8. A 2D image of the type 8 tramcar available at the Electric Streetcar model site.

  23. The Furniture Exchange

    As the name suggests the exchange is a repository for models of interior furniture. It is maintained at Ball State University by J. Bieszke of the College of Architecture and Planning. There are six models by different authors that can be downloaded at this site including three chair designs , a bookcase, a desk and a display stand. The models are available in .DGN and .DXF file formats.

    A facility is also provided for users to submit their own designs in .DWG and the other formats previously mentioned.

  24. Foss Colour

    Foss Colour of Denmark provide a small site with six objects for free download. The objects are a paper sheet, a bike, a garden bench, a guitar and a divers knife. The objects are .DXF meshes and 2D images are provided to view the objects before download.

  25. Harry H. Chang's Web Pages

    Harry's web site contains a number objects to download created by various authors. There are a number grouped into laboratory equipment, industrial models, military models and architectural categories that must be purchased. However, there are also a number that can be downloaded freely. The vast majority of these are Star Wars objects including vehicles weapons and characters. There are approximately 70 in all, and all are available in the 3DS format. There are a small number of additional objects but these are mirrored at the Avalon site and will not be discussed here.

    The site also has a mirror site in Germany and the pages are available in a number of different languages.

  26. Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory

    This FTP site is maintained at the LBL and contains over 100 downloadable .DXF models. There is little information here as to the nature of these models and no 2D images are provided.

  27. The MECN Tree Factory

    Tree Factory is a 3D modelling tool, designed for swift generation of "realistic" polygon-based tree models. On this site there is one free tree model available for download with a 2D viewable image included. This file is available in DXF format (124K) or in Lightwave Object format (LWO, 227K). There are also some GIF images of various tree types that have been modelled using this package for viewing purposes only.

  28. Caligari Corporation

    This site is maintained by Caligari, producers of the TrueSpace 3D modelling package. This site contains an art gallery which is divided into several categories including VRML, still images, animation, textures and objects. From the objects page it is possible to view 6 TrueSpace mesh models by various authors as 2D images. These models, including a body, a Star Wars Tie Fighter and a fountain pen, can be downloaded freely. There is also a link on this page to an FTP site where a further 5 objects including a dolphin and a Christmas tree light can be obtained. No 2D images of these models can be viewed before download however.

    Free VRML models can also be obtained at this site.

  29. Paradigm Productions

    This commercial site contains 69 objects that can be downloaded. They are grouped into architecture (3 models), furniture (31), entourage (8), space (11), sports (4), vehicles (2) and miscellaneous (10). No 2D images are available to view the objects and Paradigm stress that objects must be utilised in the users own work only. All of the objects are available in Lightwave 3D format.

    The site also contains a very useful links page.

  30. RatScabby

    This site provides possibly the most effective method of displaying the objects that are available for download. There are 12 models displayed on a single image (see Figure 9 below).

    Figure 9. The single image "showcase" provided for Rat Scabby models.

    The user can then download any of the objects by simply clicking in the appropriate area on the image. A more conventional listing is also provided on the web page. All the models are available in Caligari TrueSpace format (.COB) and some are also available in .DXF and 3D Studio ASCII format on request.

    There are also a number of textures (14) that can be obtained from this site.

  31. Specular

    Specular produce their own 3D modelling package for Windows ( Infini-D) and provide 5 sample models from their Replicas CD-ROM in this format. The sample models are a chair, a girl, a space vehicle, a bicycle and a WW2 fighter plane produced by various authors. Thumbnail images are provided to view each object, which can also be obtained in 3DMF format.

  32. RenderMan Star Trek: The Next Generation models.

    This collection contains 2 RenderMan (RIB) files of ships from Star Trek. The files are converted from publicly-available 3D models available in other formats. The two available models are the Enterprise -D and a Romulan Warbird. Each file has a preview image, the RIB source code, and the README file distributed with the original 3D model.

  33. Strata Media Tools

    Strata provide a number of downloadable objects on their commercial site. In the Gallery section there are 11 objects with preview images that can be obtained. The objects include a pair of sunglasses, a horseshoe and a beach ball and can be downloaded in 3DMF or VRML formats.

    Strata also provide an "Object of the Week" promotion. On this page is an image of a 3D object selected for that week that may be downloaded. The image at the time of writing is a motorcycle. A useful feature here is the Object of the Week archive where it is possible to view and download a number of objects by various authors from this promotion. Currently there are 22 models in the archive which can be downloaded in one or all of the following formats: StrataClip, 3DMF and VRML. The objects include such items as plants, CD-ROM drivers and even a case of beer. It is worth noting that these objects are changed weekly suggesting that the archive will expand steadily.

  34. The New Graphics BBS

    This is a large site which contains a link to an FTP site. The FTP site contains a large number of models for the following file formats:

    Lightwave 3D Objects, Imagine 3D Objects, 3D Studio Meshes, DXF Objects, TrueSpace Objects and Infini-D Objects.

    There are no preview images although many of the files do have a text description of the object that can be viewed.

    Also available on the comprehensive site are images and animation, movies, a gallery, relevant application information and a list of further links.

  35. POV-Ray

    The POV-Ray sites contains objects in 3DS, DXF, MDL, MISC and RAW formats. The site has a number of each and also a number that have been converted from various formats into POV-Ray INC files. Most of the files do not have individual preview images although some have a JPG index which can be viewed before downloading.

    The site also contains many images which can be downloaded freely.

  36. Stanford

    This site contains a number of Space Shuttle models collected by Apostolos Lerios. This list was compiled during April, 1992 (even though the Web page is fairly recent), for a NASA project.

    There are six models produced by different groups which may be obtained by FTP from the page. A detailed description of the format of each model is included although no preview images of any of the models are available.

  37. Watermarks Technical Creations

    The Watermark site has a page containing 49 downloadable objects in 3DS format. The objects are categorised as follows:

    Also available are 5 DXF meshes of a computer, a monitor, a keyboard, a chair and an office phone.

  38. Washington State University

    The WSU 3D Object Model Database contains several sets of 3D object models collected over several years to use in object recognition research. The sets are collected from a number of sites:

    The models are in the main primitive shapes and industrial type objects such as taperolls, cubes and various polyhedra. An example of a preview image can be seen in Figure 10 below.

    Figure 10. A thumbnail image of an object from the Michigan State Collection

  39. Wonka’s Free Objects

This site contains 12 free objects in Lightwave 3D format. The objects include a satellite, a washing machine and an American football. The objects are displayed as 2D preview images, and downloading is achieved by simply clicking on the appropriate image. The text suggests that 2 new pages of models will be added soon, but there is no indication as to when the site was last updated.

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