3D in computer programs changed the landscape of possibility for movies, product mockups, gaming, 3D printing, and more. 3D computer modeling is the creation of a three-dimensional digital visual representation of an object by using software. The computer renders (calculates) the shadows, lighting, and angles shapes of objects. 3D software also allows for the real time interaction of the 3D object, so you can see it from multiple angles.

While any history on the development of a new technology is super intricate and involves countless people, generalized history brings up “key moments” to paint a picture.

So we can start with Futureworld (1976), the first major feature film to use 3D computer generated imagery (CGI) with a 3D hand and face.

3D also entered the hands of consumers in the ’70s. 3D computer graphics software started being implemented in home computers in the late ’70s. The earliest known example is 3D Art Graphics, a group of 3D computer graphics effects, coded by Kazumasa Mitazawa and released in 1978 for the Apple II.

The first 3D video-game is occasionally debated, as certain games used 2D and 3D elements dating back to the ’70s. Descent, a first person action game made by Parallax Software, was released in 1994.

Some people argue it doesn’t fit the definition of first because it was still using 2D elements such as the 2D drawn spaceship graphic at the bottom half. This is why some people consider Quake (1996) a first-person shooter video game developed by id software, to be the first “true” 3D video game.

In the world of movies a year before, Toy Story made history.

Toy Story (1995) was the first feature-length film to be entirely 3D computer-animated. Following it in the years to come, there would be 3D animated movies like Shrek (2001), Jimmy Neutron (2002), Ice Age (2002), which arose from all sorts of different animation studios. The company that made Toy Story (Pixar) would become a well-known name with movie releases following like A Bugs Life (1998), Toy Story 2 (1999), Monsters Inc (2001), Finding Nemo (2003), The Incredibles (2004), and many more.

1995 was also the year Dutch animation studio NeoGeo began work on what would be known as “Blender”, a 3D computer program that can be used for animation and gaming. To date, one of the best qualities of Blender is that it’s free, while other software like Maya is not.

For the future, we’ll see more of 3D design in VR / AR apps. 3D designs that react to the lighting of real world environments in AR lenses.

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