Thomas Goddard has written and released a freely-available plug-in for Maya that exports model and texture data to XAML. There are some clean-up steps that need to be accomplished before performing the export, and Thomas does a fantastic job of explaining them in his short tutorial. Although I don't have a copy of Maya to try this out, the screenshots look very compelling. It's great to see exporters like this, as they ease the technical hurdles that traditionally exist between professional designers and software developers.
Thomas hits the nail on the head when he says: "It will not be long before all applications incorporate XAML in one aspect or another." He's correct. It's important to understand the investment and commitment we've made in the underlying Windows Presentation Foundation (formerly known as "Avalon") technology. There is a vast amount of untapped power in the GPUs in most modern machines (interesting but unrelated example at UNC). For example, I run an overclocked NVIDIA GeForce 6800 Ultra on my dual-Opteron workstation at home, and as I type this blog entry on Sunday afternoon, I'm using almost none of its power. It's only when I fire-up a game like Quake 4 or Half-Life 2 that I begin to tax my GPU. Can you imagine the user experience that my existing hardware could provide if it were easy to take advantage of?
As the famous phrase goes: "with great power comes great responsibility." In other words, this is technology that can be used for good (i.e. rich, interactive user experiences) or bad (i.e. lots of spinning logos and gratuitous UI). I've had the fortune to work with many early adopters of this technology, and I'm amazed by what I've seen already (witness the North Face demo that we showed at PDC05). I'm convinced that—similar to the switch from command-line to GUI—applications are on the verge of taking a leap from graphical user interface to graphical user experience. We're just now starting to see the tools that make this possible in our upcoming Expression product line, and exporters like this one from Thomas Goddard only add to the mix. Great job, Thomas!
If you've written a tool that helps with XAML application development, or you're aware of one that I haven't mentioned in the past, please be sure to drop me a note.