WebGL is Coming

Exploring X3dom on the homepage

WebGL is Coming

On our homepage is an example of X3dom. X3dom is an iteration of WebGL, a JavaScript API for rendering interactive 3D computer graphics in a web browser.  We had intended to go further and make the haybales (or elements nearby) clickable. Those clicks would have made most of the scene disappear, landscape become a wireframe, and bring up an abstract dataspace related to the images on the haybales. Sadly, in X3dom you cannot trigger scripts in WALK mode. You need to be in EXAMINE or FLY mode for clicks to work with scripts. It's a bug and a big one. A lesser bug popped up in making an X3Dom logo for the site, point light shadows have artifacts in Win8.1 / Firefox. 

Our choice of X3dom was based on its history and connection to X3D, the only formal web3D standard, and good tools. Models, animation, and limited interactive can be exported from 3DS Max in VRML format, then imported into BS Content Studio. BS Content Studio could be a groundbreaking tool - if it was more stable in Windows 8.1 and X3dom less problematic. While we don't recommend any WebGL for large commercial applications, It's interesting and for tutorials and support, there's the X33dom website.

Overall WebGL is not easy for anyone these days. There's a range of implementations, each with its slate of problems. Three.js is generally popular, but there's a long list of contenders. The latest advancement is the export of WebGL from major game engines Unity 5 and Unreal 4. Game engine support is far from complete, but greater advancements are planned. In the case of Unity, version 5.1 is slated to offered multi-user networking support to its WebGL export.

On the browser side most current browsers support WebGL and are looking to deepen that support.  On mobile devices as of today Android Firefox supports WebGL as does Apple's iOS. Support varies and we don't just mean which features. How the flavors of WebGL get supported varies from browser to browser and platform to platform.

As for what's coming, we can say that the medium is young and the technical hurdles are complex, but that sort of comment offers little insight into the future. Issues of killers apps for WebGL, better tools, better support will all play a role. As for myself, I have a stack of ideas for applications & interfaces - but after much frustration with X3dom, I'm going to move on to other projects. On this site, the Theory & Virtual Work pages are a safe & rewarding area to focus on.




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