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Google Launches 3D API For Browser, O3D

Google Launches 3D API For Browser, O3D

April 27, 2009 | By Kris Graft

April 27, 2009 | By Kris Graft
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An internal team at Google has unveiled its initial results in creating an open source web API for the creation of high-quality 3D graphics in a web browser -- and it's looking promising even in this early stage.

Google's O3D is part of the Internet giant's efforts to "establish an open web standard for 3D graphics." A debut demo (viewable here) shows a lush, 3D tropical island complete with reflections and detailed textures.

One of the most attractive traits of O3D is the ability to instantly see the results of coding, hearkening back to the days of BASIC programming, said one of O3D's developers. Google's Gregg Tavares wrote in his blog that O3D allows users to type code live via Firefox's Firebug or the Javascript console in Safari, refresh the browser then see the results.

Vangelis Kokkevis, software engineer for the O3D team, explained some of his goals that the team wanted to achieve with the API: "...We wanted to create a browser API that provides developers direct access to the powerful 3D graphics hardware that's inside most modern PCs. ... In essence, we wanted to provide the flexibility and speed of a low-level graphics API like OpenGL or Direct3D, while addressing the constraints of running inside the browser."

The O3D team also said one of the objectives of the project is not only to introduce an actual solution for the question of 3D browser standardization, but also to spark "conversation with the broader developer community" regarding potential standards.

Other companies are searching for 3D web solutions. Firefox creator Mozilla said earlier this year that it's working its own 3D technology, for example.

O3D isn't Google's first foray into 3D web gaming territory. Last year, the firm introduced Google Lively, an in-browser virtual world that had potential for gaming applications. Google, however, shut down the unrelated project late last year.

Users can download the O3D plug-in for Windows here, and for Mac here. More information and developer discussion can be found at Google Code Labs.


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