WebGL and me sitting in a tree. K.I.S.S.I.N.G.

 I love 3d, I love the web. For nearly a decade I’ve been doing stuff to bridge the two. Most of that time has been spent using linear rendering1 to deliver pretty PNGs (an image format) or uncompressed Quicktimes (a movie format) and getting them to developers in the right order to give the illusion of interactive 3d, this has worked well, with some very pretty interactive experiences or content delivery possible in this way
There were a few brief flurries of real-time1 activity, using engines such as Papervision or Alternativa, both running inside Flash. When the right job came in Unity reared (and still rears) its beautiful head, but requires a plugin to function on line2. Basically, all these things were / are ace, but getting client buy in on a relatime project was extremely hard and required a very specific niche to be fulfilled.

WebGL is different. WebGL is built into all the major browsers and allows direct access to the graphics hardware in the viewing machine / tablet / phone3. WebGL is not new, it’s been around for a long time, however what is new is the level of browser support it finally has. For ages its been a pretty big risk in using it, but this risk is now beginning to diminish, making little ol me feel like a kid in a candy store and pretty much salivating at the potential.

From my perspective this is a real game-changer to the way the internet is going to be viewed and interacted with. Why? Read on dear chums. Unlike the previous niche uses of 3D online, I believe WebGL will facilitate a more natural uptake in the use of 3D to deliver content. Most likely the content for the next few years will be mind blowing awesome 3D extravaganzas (which I’m all for, and is in fact the most likely scenario to bring us in briefs), but what intrigues me more is how 3D could change the more day to day aspects of the web and how it’s used. There’s bound to be a stack load of ways to make information easier to digest, or interact with via 3D than 2D - I’m not suggesting I know what these are, but I am very much interesting to see how they emerge and mature. Content has for a long time been stuck in 2D land, and quite rightly so - there’s never been much of a medium to allow 3D to do anything other than annoy people that would prefer just to read something on a screen, but If my hunches are right, WebGL could well usher in a ‘next gen3’ web experience.

1. A brief explanation between linear and realtime rendering: Realtime is when an image is generated in full by the computer every frame. If that makes no sense then realtime is basically games, where you can move about and have the freedom to explore because the computer is rendering where you want to go as you go. Linear is when a computer renders out finished frames (usually at 25 frames per second) and then the user plays it back like a video.

2. Oooh ohhh! WebGL export has been anounced in Unity5. Well shit the bed, this is exciting. Stay tuned non-existant blog readers, I'm going to post about this in the near(ish) future.

3. Yeah, yeah, I know - webGL on mobiles sucks balls currently. But it won’t forever. All modern browsers now support it, and it’s only a matter of time until mobile browsers catch up. Source: Jules opinion.

3. Yep. I went there.

Posted by Jules on 14/03/2014 10:24:44 | with 0 comments


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