Build complex toys and simple tools
by Tony Karp
There's a 3D object on this page and why you can't see it

It appears you don't have Adobe Reader for this browser.
You can click here to download the PDF file.

To view this 3D object, you need to have Adobe Reader installed.
Be patient, it may take some time to load.


Mouse: Click and drag to move model on different axes. Experiment with clicking in different places to see the effect. Zoom in and out using the mouse's scroll wheel.

Touchscreen: Touch and drag to move model on different axes. Experiment with touching in different places to see the effect. Zoom in and out by pinching or spreading your fingers

Notes: You can reset the model by reloading the page.

I was curious whether you could actually embed a 3D object on a web page. I was working on some other 3D projects and I thought it would be an interesting adventure. The 3D object, built from some of my pictures, was created in Google SketchUp Pro and imported into a PDF document using Adobe Acrobat 9 Pro Extended.

Now, all I had to do was to find a way to embed a PDF document into a web page and that was it. Or so I thought. The hitch is that you have to have Adobe Reader installed in order to see 3D. No problem. Everybody has Adobe Reader, right? After all, the web is full of PDF documents, and things like cameras now come with their instruction manuals in PDF format rather then printed out.

Not so fast. On some browsers, it worked fine. On others, just a still image of the 3D object or a white rectangle, and on some others, just the alternate text I included that lets you download the object and view it offline. Why the problem? The answer is philosophical as well as technical.

Let's start with the simplest case: it works fine and you can manipulate the object by dragging it. This means that you have Adobe Reader installed, and you are browsing with Firefox, Internet Explorer, or Safari. So far so good.

The first problem shows up with Google's Chrome browser. Guess what? Not only did Google decide to make their own browser, but in a truly great what-were-they-thinking moment, they decided to make their very own PDF viewer. While Adobe controls the PDF format, the details are public, allowing any one to build an application that can open or write PDF documents.

I've done three art books, all interactive PDF documents using every available feature (and a few Adobe doesn't know about). To view them, you have to have Adobe Reader. But that's not a problem, it's free after all, so why not use it? That's the puzzling thing about Google making their own, somewhat crippled PDF viewer and forcing everyone to use theirs.

But there's a way to use Adobe Reader with the Chrome browser. First, of course, you have to have Adobe Reader installed (you can get it from Now go to Chrome's address bar and type in:
Disable "Chrome PDF Viewer" and enable "Adobe Acrobat" and you're done. You have unleashed all of the advanced PDF features including 3D, interactive documents, forms, and a host of other goodies.

I've saved the most interesting for last -- Apple's iPad. Apple, in their infinite wisdom, has locked the iPad from using Adobe Flash and Adobe Reader. A number of technical reasons were given, and if you wish to believe them, that's up to you. In any case, the end result is that iPad users are denied access to a great deal of content, both web-based (Flash), and document-based (PDF).

There are some web sites that translate Flash into an iPad-compatible form, and there are a number of somewhat limited PDF viewers available. There's no real workaround, but perhaps one day Adobe and Apple will get together and open the doors to a world of content that's missing for iPad users.

What about HTML5? Let's take the 3D Object in the PDF document above. Here's a challenge for the HTML5 gurus out there. Duplicate my 3D object in HTML5. There are several problems with this. Many more browsers support Adobe Reader than support HTML5. You will need special libraries, such as WebGL. And the PDF 3d object is a single, locked file. How many files will it take to duplicate this in HTML5?

So what's the takeaway from all of this? As an artist, I look for new ways to create art and display it to as many people as possible. I use technology for the creation and display. It bothers me that here, in the 21st Century, it's actually getting more difficult.

Three years ago, the problems listed above didn't exist. No one used the Chrome browser and there was no iPad. Everyone had a Mac or a PC, and most people had Adobe Reader on their computer. Now it's becoming a splintered, fragmented world.

How's that for progress?
< Previous Mar 30, 2012 Next >
Copyright 1958-2018 Tony & Marilyn Karp
Web Site Design
Systems Design
The Future
About Tony Karp
Recent Entries
Green eggs and ham. And onions. And cheddar.
A blast from the past
Hidden views -- Discoveries from my drone
Will the FAA stop regulating hobby drones?
Here's a panorama from my Mavic, and two more
A quadcopter is a totally new kind of aircraft
Taking to the air -- First flights
Let's talk about the Mavic Pro's camera
A different viewpoint
The value of time in the creative process
Variations on a skink
Andy shoots raw. Ann always shoots JPEG
A butterfly in Havana -- From start to finish
Recovering highlight detail in JPEG images
A tribute to Paris on November 14, 2015
Some black and white pictures from long ago
Panasonic DMC-ZS40 pictures - Part 2
Panasonic DMC-ZS40 pictures - Part 1
Art in the 3rd Dimension -- A butterfly takes wing
Shooting for NBC
What's new at the zoo?
On being a photojournalist
Some pictures of Manassas
Finishing a picture
Watching the sunset in Adams Morgan
A night at the circus - 1966
Fortune Qwerkies (tm) -- Fortune cookies for the smartphone user
Art in the 3rd Dimension -- The evolution from flat to solid
Art in the 3rd Dimension -- Showing how the pieces fit together
Getting a grip on the Panasonic DMC-LF1
Some random thoughts about the Panasonic DMC-LF1
The Panasonic DMC-LF1 is a game-changer
Art and the Zen of QR Codes -- Making QaRt
A new process for printing art in the 3rd dimension
Bubbles! Bubbles! Bubbles!
Photographing the Perry Como Show
Hiking at Sky Meadows with my Panasonic DMC-ZS20
Working for the union
A new take on JPEG vs raw - Panasonic DMC-ZS20
Some pictures from my Panasonic DMC-ZS20 - Part 2
Some pictures from my Panasonic DMC-ZS20 - Part 1
My new go-everywhere camera - Panasonic DMC-ZS20
My brief life in the studio
Shooting Shakespeare - The Tempest - NBC, 1960
Impressionist bees
In the studio with Roz Kelly
At the Peppermint Lounge - 1962
An evening with Gene Kelly
A portrait of Donna Mitchell - Variations on a theme
The "Sky Dream Ultimate" plug-in from Wilkington-Smythe
There's a 3D object on this page and why you can't see it
Post-processing: Going from good to great
Winter pictures from my Panasonic DMC-FZ150
Using the Panasonic DMC-FZ150's "Photo Style" Menu
A valentine for the Artist's Muse
The Panasonic DMC-FZ150's controls
Some thoughts on the Panasonic DMC-FZ150 - Part 2
The Panasonic DMC-FZ150 - A cure for DSLR envy?
Some thoughts about my Panasonic DMC-FZ150 - Part 1
The Panasonic DMC-FZ150 -- Best camera ever?
Sunglasses - What can you add to a picture?
Hey, camera makers. If my smartphone can do this…
The Artmuse Variations - a look inside my new book
A tribute to George Washington on Veterans Day
A visit to the White House
The little farmhouse, the tractor, and the interesting tree
Buckminster, the baby buckeye butterfly
Memories of September 11
Happy Corporation Day!
A trip to Monterey and San Francisco
The first battle of the American Civil War -- 150 years ago
The end of an era -- The last American manned mission
Growing an Italian stone pine tree
Random thoughts on art and other stuff - From my new book
Playing with a classic - Sony DSC-R1 - Part 3, Warrenton
Playing with a classic - Sony DSC-R1 - Part 2, In the house
Playing with a classic - Sony DSC-R1 - Part 1, Winter
Some recent pictures
Fixing a Panasonic DMC-FZ18/FZ28/FZ35 problem
Into the world of shadows
A walk through Warrenton
Partly moony with my Panasonic DMC-FZ35
My new Panasonic DMC-FZ35 - Part 3 - Video
Some pictures from my Panasonic DMC-FZ35 - Part 2
Happy birthday to muse...
Pixels and parking lots -- The Panasonic FZ35
Some pictures from my Panasonic DMC-FZ35
My new Panasonic DMC-FZ35 - Part 2
My new Panasonic DMC-FZ35 - Part 1
On our way to Warrenton
Evolution of an Iris
A new feature in Adobe Camera Raw 5.4
A tribute to the Apollo 11 astronauts
The pole dancer - Variations on a theme
Restoring lost highlight detail in JPEG images
A short course in photography in ten easy lessons
Kodachrome memories
A walk in the woods on my birthday
Mythbusters - More raw vs JPEG myths
Restoring lost shadow detail in JPEG images
Expose for the highlights, develop for the shadows
Something new -- Interchangeable cameras
Honey, I shrunk the newspaper - The "Nano" NY Times
Mistaking evolution for revolution
Some pictures from the artist's muse
Photography becomes art -- Daibutsu Buddha at Kamakura
Happy House-i-versary
25 random things about the artist's muse
It happened at the Met
Some pictures and some settings - Part 4 - DMC-FZ28
Some pictures and some settings - Part 3 - DMC-FZ28
Some pictures and some settings - Part 2 - DMC-FZ28
Some pictures and some settings - Panasonic DMC-FZ28
Noiseography -- A new photographic technique
Shooting infrared with the Panasonic DMC-FZ28
You're never too young
One month with the Panasonic DMC-FZ28
A trip to Berryville - Panasonic DMC-FZ28
It's the Hobbitt's birthday
On September 11th
Shooting Tri-X with the Panasonic DMC-FZ28
A shot in the dark - Panasonic DMC-FZ28
Sunset and the far-up lens -- Panasonic DMC-FZ18
Further musings on the Panasonic DMC-FZ28
Customizing your camera for high-ISO photography
Panasonic DMC-FZ28 vs DMC-FZ18 at high ISO
Some musings about the Panasonic DMC-FZ28
Hummers, SUVs, DSLRs, and my DMC-FZ28
Panasonic DMC-FZ28 -- At the Flying Circus
Panasonic DMC-FZ28 -- The journey begins
Farewell, my Panasonic DMC-FZ18
More about the settings for the DMC-FZ18
Dealing with the modes and settings of the DMC-FZ18
Photography becomes art - Bird on a wire
The artist's muse at sunset -- DMC-FZ18
Do you need fancy equipment?
Now here's my plan
Good cookie, bad cookie
But seriously, folks...
Post-processing Mr. Squirrel
A museum of one's own
We need new words to describe what's happening
Going over to the dark side
Shooting the moon
Happy Anniversary, Hobbitt
The view from my window - DMC-FZ18
My favorite museum
A toast to the artist's muse
The DMC-FZ18, a sunset, and a glass of beer
Remembering Herbert Keppler
Shooting abstracts with the Panasonic DMC-FZ18
Fixing a Panasonic DMC-FZ18 problem
More pictures from my Panasonic DMC-FZ18
The journey of a thousand Melvins
Stairway to the stars -- Extreme post processing
DMC-FZ18 - Raw vs JPEG - The JPEG Manifesto
Chromatic aberration and the DMC-FZ18
Raw vs JPEG, the DMC-FZ18, and a mystery
Some pictures from my Kodak P880 - Part 2
Some pictures from my Panasonic DMC-FZ18
Some pictures from my Kodak P880 - Part 1
DMC-FZ18 - Don't be afraid of the dark
Shooting in "Medium" - DMC-FZ18 - The right exposure
Shooting in "Medium" and the Panasonic DMC-FZ18
In-use review -- Panasonic DMC-FZ18 - Part 2
In-use review -- Panasonic DMC-FZ18 - Part 1
Photography becomes art - Fantasy at Ida Lee
Photography becomes art - The chefs at Little Washington
My new old camera - the Kodak Easyshare P880
Photography becomes art - Variations on a theme
Doing the impossible - Part 4 - The final result
Doing the impossible - Part 3 - The solutions
Doing the impossible - Part 2 - The challenges
Doing the impossible - Part 1 - The Godfather
All the (art) news that's fit to print
The museum becomes art - #1
Photography becomes art - Making an angel
How to test a camera
Hitting the wall
Extreme post-processing - Working with infrared
Blogging 2.0 - A new interface
A funny thing happened on my way to the blog
In the beginning...