Say It in 3D!

Hi, this is Richard. Before I talk about Passion for Innovation, my usual playground, I’d like to share some thoughts about 3D as a universal language.

First, let me tell you I’m really fond of languages. I think language reveals many things about the unique genius of a given people. The origin and evolution of a language is tightly linked to its speakers’ history, and the colloquial expressions reflect the way they see the world. That’s why I try to learn some basic words and useful sentences whenever I travel in a country I’ve never been before. It’s a matter of respect and helps me to be open to other cultures.

So, what’s the link with 3D? At Dassault Systèmes we believe that 3D is a language in its own right, a universal language. At this point I imagine some of you may be raising your eyebrows in sort of a “what the heck are they talking about?” kind of way. Let me explain.

Getting rid of the Babel curse is an old dream, which led to humans trying to build universal languages. The most well-known ones are Volapük and Esperanto. Although the latter one is still spoken today, all failed to fulfill the dream.

The reason is that you do not build a language from scratch. As mentioned before, a language is tightly linked to history and the genius of the people who forged it. It reflects the people’s deepest nature.

So, are we hopeless? Of course not. Here enters 3D.

Look at children. Before they can speak as adults do, kids naturally use drawings to communicate their vision of the world and their feelings. They also use gestures. Adults will use gestures as well to try and communicate with foreigners when they do not know a single word of their language.

As soon as we can’t rely on words, we resort to a direct, non-verbal, more or less accurate representation of the world. In other words, we draw– either on a flat surface (2D) or “in the air” (3D gestures).

If we could have a direct, exact representation of the world to present to other people, we would use it to communicate. That’s the point. Interactive 3D is the solution.

  • Because it’s 3D, it accurately represents our world (much better than a 2D drawing, even if you’re a reincarnated Da Vinci, perspective genius)
  • Because it’s interactive, you can let people play around with it, manipulate it at will.

Let’s take an example: Jean-Pierre Houdin’s theory about the Great Pyramid building. The downloadable full story is as crystal clear as humanly possible. However, building such a monument needs techniques which are delicate to put into words. Because we all have different backgrounds and experiences, some specific words will carry different meanings, some sentences will ring loud and clear for architects or scientists but not for people unfamiliar with those universes.

Now, let’s consider the 3D site. Watch Jean-Pierre’s avatar explain his theory “in person”. Experience the interactive, 3D navigation. Walk around the pyramid and navigate to places where you would like to see more details. You can do it, it’s all in 3D, and it’s all real-time and interactive. Best of all, if you have a chance to attend the immersive 3D show at La Geode (a giant media dome in Paris), you will experience Khufu’s building as if you were in Egypt at that time. Wearing special glasses, you will be among the workers hauling blocks of limestone and see the monument taking shape stone after stone. No lecture, no matter if it’s made by the world’s best orator, can match that.

3D eliminates all barriers. It’s not anymore about cultural or educational backgrounds. It’s all about pure experience, sensations and emotions. 3D talks directly to your senses.

That’s why we believe 3D is the universal language. We’ll show it through new, exciting projects soon. Stay tuned!

Keep 3D-ing!






Latest posts by Richard (see all)

  • “The reason is that you do not build a language from scratch. As mentioned before, a language is tightly linked to history and the genius of the people who forged it. It reflects the people’s deepest nature.”
    Only a superficial look at Esperanto would convince you that :
    1) it was not built from scratch (see for the etymology).
    2) the language was forged by literate people, while natural languages were modified chiefly by illiterate people
    3) It reflects the people’s deepest nature indeed: Esperanto grammar is based on common sense and the way the brain naturally works. (read from “A complex network of programs”

    Languages and 3D are complementary.

  • Most of the Esperanto-speakers I know are not interested in a ‘universal language’ as you call it, but in ‘universal bilingualism’, i.e. YOUR ethnic language + non-ethnic Esperanto for all. And we prefer to speak of a ‘constructed’ or ‘planned’ language. Some reasons for learning Esperanto may be found in the seven points of the Prague manifesto:
    It is usually English-speakers who are interested in promoting ‘one language for the world’ – and guess what they want that one language to be?! Such a policy is already causing endangered minority languages to disappear, as Unesco informs us.
    And those of us who use Esperanto daily know that it works perfectly well in actual practice, despite the disbelief of the uninformed. It does in fact fulfill its dream for those willing to try it. Ignoti nulla cupido.

  • An interesting comment about Esperanto! I would point out that Esperanto is a living language, whereas Volapuk did not work.

    It’s unfortunate that only a few people know that it has become a living language.

    During a short period of 121 years Esperanto is now in the top 100 languages, out of 6,800 worldwide, according to the CIA factbook. It is the 17th most used language in Wikipedia, and in use by Skype, Firefox and Facebook.

    Native Esperanto speakers,(people who have used the language from birth), include George Soros, World Chess Champion Susan Polger, Ulrich Brandenberg the new German Ambassador to NATO and Nobel Laureate Daniel Bovet.

    Further information can be seen at A glimpse of the language can be seen at

  • Hello,

    first of all, let me tell you the thoughts I shared about languages and especially Esperanto were not intended to attack the latter in anyway.

    Yes, it has been carefully designed by litterate people. Yes, its grammar is quite logical (no exception)and could be widely accepted for that reason. Yes, some native speakers are brilliant persons of our time. Yes it’s a living language (I acknowledged that in my post. But as I mentioned, it just has not the historical background to become a widely accepted standard. It lacks this nearly “carnal” link with a people.

    A “natural” language is the reasult of a long history. It includes foreign words (traces of past invasions or more peaceful exchanges), its grammar include more or less exceptions (I think French grammar is number one for that!). All those “accidents”, one could say all those “scars of history” make it some kind of living being that one people won’t feel like giving up.

    About bilinguism and Esperanto vs English. English has two factors accounting for its success as a de facto standard international language. The first one is historical: the British Empire was quite large and helped spread the language, then the importance of the USA in the 20th century did the rest.The second thing is that it has a relatively simple grammar compared to , say, French or German, and it’s relatively simple to pronounce as well, especially compared to tonal Eastern Asian languages.

    The thing is, when a de facto standard emerges, it’s hard, not to say impossible, to propose a successful replacement. Even if it’s better in many aspects. This is also something we face everyday in computer sciences …

    That’s why I’m supporting 3D as a natural language, as a pure sensorial experience vs the mental process involved in “decoding” words.
    Anyway, many thanks for your comments. We can debate about that, I’m available for more feedbacks.



  • Jaron Lanier also thinks that “Interpersonal Communication Will Become More Profound” thanks to 3D :

    I’ve been fascinated by the potential for “Post-symbolic Communication” for many years. (…) Suppose you’re enjoying an advanced future implementation of Virtual Reality and you can cause spontaneously designed things to appear and act and interact with the ease of sentences pouring forth during an ordinary conversation today. (…) Some of the most interesting data from VR research thus far involve Homuncular Flexibility. It turns out that the human brain can learn to control radically different bodies with remarkable ease. That means that people might eventually learn to spontaneously change what’s going on in a virtual world by becoming parts of it. (…)

    Imagine a means of expression that is a cross between the three great new art forms of the 20th century: jazz improvisation, computer programming, and cinema. Suppose you could improvise anything that could be seen in a movie with the speed and facility of a jazz improviser. What would that mean for the sense of connection between you and someone you love?

  • Hi Richard,

    I completely agree with the notion that 3D is the universal language and is an important part of communication.

    The Dassault presentation describes Jean-Pierre Houdin’s theory well I’ve written about it on my blog, Talking Pyramids (

    That project is particularly interesting to me because for the past few years I have been coordinating a similar project involving the three-diminsional reconstruction of another pyramid, the pyramid of Unas.

    The pyramid of Unas contains the earliest and most complete version of the Pyramid Texts. As such it is the main source used by scholars studying the language and religion of the ancient Egyptians. These texts have been printed in books with a number of different translations but such a linear, two-dimensional presentation of the texts lacks vital information that can only be presented in a three dimensional manner. The very act of printing these texts in a book forces an arbitrary and artificial order to the texts, one that was not present in the original presentation of the texts.

    This has caused some conflict amongst scholars of the Pyramid Texts. Indeed, there are differing views on the intended sequence of the texts. For example, some Egyptologists believe the texts should be read from the sarcophagus chamber to the entrance, while others believe the texts were intended to flow from the outside to the sarcophagus chamber deep inside the pyramid. Others still, prefer an architectural analysis and consider the position of the texts within the tomb to be directly related to the content of the texts.

    That the texts were not written in a linear sequence like a book is clear. Therefore the most effective representation of the Pyramid Texts, in order to best understand them, is a three-dimensional one in which the reader of the texts becomes a visitor to the pyramid.

    Once completed our digital recreation will provide the visitor with a richly detailed 3D experience with the ability to move through the pyramid and zoom in on the walls to read the texts with the optional addition of translations.

    So you can see, here is a good example of the importance of 3D in regards to language.

    Vincent Brown

  • Guys, do you really think you create yet another jus like that? Programming language, perhaps. Not human mother tongues.

    Or perhaps are you just making poetry?

    A language is the result of everyday usage by millions of people. Languages that are used by less than 1m person just … die or slowly disappear (look at Yiddish nowadays).

    A language changes everyday, mixes with other languages, takes different forms, either written or oral.

    I would certainly agree that 3D can help make things clearer, but 3D is not – and may nether turn to be – a “language”.

  • This is a great conversation. Are we too focused on whether 3D is a language or what I think Richard was trying to convey – that 3D is an excellent global form of communication? In my blog today I shared some additional perspective on how 3D as a universal communication tool is important to manufacturers, including:
    – Communicating Innovation
    – Validating Innovation
    – Communicating with the Plant and Suppliers
    – Show it in Action
    Great conversation! (I wish I knew how to say that in Esparanto…)

    My blog from today is titled “What I Learned: 3D as Universal Communication” if you have comments/feedback

  • Hello,

    thank you so much for your valuable comments. I’ll try to answer below.

    @Sébastien: a very interesting link indeed! The multi-sensorial aspect is a key point to a complete experience. It is known that we use less than 10% of our brain capabilities. Who knows what we could achieve if we could unlock more, and if VR could help in doing so? Some kind of “total communication” where senses would be used as much as verbal or symbolic communication. Quite interesting

    @Vincent: thanks for getting back to Egypt. Unas pyramid (VIth dynasty), the first one to present the pyramid texts. You’re perfectly right, 3D puts everything into its right place, where printing the texts in a book leads to choose a sequence which can be discussed forever. There again, the power of 3D is in the true experience.

    @Hervé: thanks for writing the word “poetry”, because poetry comes from the ancient Greek “poein”, meaning “to create” 🙂

    IMHO, poetry is the art of making words tell more than what they’re supposed to tell, just by a specific usage or alliance. It just shows that plain words are not enough to communicate.

    Although what you’re saying about languages is right, it seems to me that you limit communication to VERBAL communication and the languages used for that purpose.

    I guess you know that less than 10% of what we mean is conveyed by the words we’re saying. More than a third is conveyed by the tone of our voice (and it’s even more accurate with Asian Eastern languages, where the very same word will have dramatically different meanings according to the tone you’re using). Finally, more than half of what we’re communicating is conveyed by our body postures and our gestures.

    This non verbal communication gets us back to pure, sensorial experience 3D is belonging to.

    And I agree with you, efficient communication needs a combination of verbal and non-verbal communication, even if the high percentage of non verbal communication might account for my thoughts on 3D as a universal language.

    @Jim: thanks for opening new perspectives (!) to this discussion. I appreciate your clarification and your post. As a matter of fact, you perfectly got my point. Rather than “language”, we cay telle about a form of communication. Fruitful exchanges, thanks for that

  • Not everything is 3D-able either.
    For instance this blog couldn’t be 3d-ed, could it?
    The more ways you know to express your thoughts, the easiest you will be able to choose an appropriate tool to express them. 
    What about 4D (movement) 6D (stereo sound), 8D (stereo smell) etc… (+ gravity, pressure, temperature…).
    The multi-D-ity of Esperanto is higher than that of any language. IMHO the difference is as high as going from 2D to 6D.
    BTW, D-ification is an essential feature of the language.
    God bless you too.

  • Dankon. Al mi estis tre agrable paroli kun vi. Amike …


  • “At this point I imagine some of you may be raising your eyebrows in sort of a “what the heck are they talking about?””

    Unfortunatly I think this is true about alot of DS speak…

    Why make it complex? 3D is a great way to communicate and share ideas! Why does it need to be a language?

  • I 100% agree with vuuch…

  • Hi Chris (vuuch) and Hervé, I agree that 3D is a great way to communicate and share ideas, however referring to it as a language works fine for me. Sure, it’s a media, and some say it will be retrospectively referred to as The Media of the 21st century. But I think somehow it’s more than that, which is why toying with the term language doesn’t bother me at all. Best, Kate