From computer-aided design (CAD) drawings of complex engineering parts to digital representations of proteins and complex molecules, an increasing amount of 3D information is making its way onto the Web and into corporate databases. Because of this, users need ways to store, index, and search this information. Typical Web-searching approaches, such as Googleâ€™s, canâ€™t do this. Even for 2D images, they generally search only the textual parts of a file, noted Greg Notess, editor of the online Search Engine Showdown newsletter.
However, researchers at universities such as Purdue and Princeton have begun developing search engines that can mine catalogs of 3D objects, such as airplane parts, by looking for physical, not textual, attributes. Users formulate a query by using a drawing application to sketch what they are looking for or by selecting a similar object from a catalog of images. The search engine then finds the items they want. The company must make it again, wasting valuable time and money.