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Dealing with 2D maps and simple feature overlays has long been a common task for traditional Geographic Information Systems (GISs). However, enabling interactive, accurate, and dynamic 3D visualizations of geospatial data that can be disseminated over the Web is only now becoming a reality. The GeoVRML working group of the Web3D Consortium recently announced an extension to the ISO standard Virtual Reality Modeling Language (VRML) to enable just these capabilities. This extension is called GeoVRML 1.0. GeoVRML is an official recommended practice of the Web3D Consortium and is planned to be included in an upcoming amendment to the VRML97 ISO standard.
GeoVRML 1.0 content can be browsed interactively in any standard VRML97 browser. A number of these browsers exist as freely-available plugins for common Web browsers such as Netscape Communicator and Microsoft Internet Explorer. Tools have been written to simplify the authoring and conversion of geospatial data to GeoVRML. In addition, GeoVRML is an open standard: its specification is published openly and a source-level sample implementation is provided. In this paper, we will concentrate on a few of the commercially available tools that support the GeoVRML format, and also describe some of the capabilities that this solution provides geoscientists for the purpose of integrating their geographic data directly into a three dimensional (3D) computer graphics scene graph.