Joe Ganley

I make software and sometimes other things.


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I had a dream last night that I had implemented OpenGL in JavaScript on the HTML5 canvas (yes, this is the sort of thing I dream about). Not hardware acceleration, just a 3D graphics context with an OpenGL API. For a few minutes after I woke up, this seemed like a good idea. Then my head cleared, and I realized that OpenGL is a pretty clumsy API to choose if you're not getting hardware acceleration in return, but that nonetheless a 3D graphics context for canvas, written in pure JavaScript, could be useful.

Looking around, I found a blog post that lists four efforts along these lines (no pun intended). They are pretty impressive, but it seems that performance is likely to be acceptable only for fairly simple scenes. Nevertheless, these are very much what I was thinking of doing, and their performance is at least as good as I would have expected, so kudos to their authors.

Dropping the pure-JavaScript requirement, we come to the Canvas:3D project, which is a Mozilla plugin that provides direct access to hardware acceleration through the HTML5 canvas using OpenGL. (There is a similar project for the Opera browser as well.) Having to install a plugin rubs me the wrong way, but it sounds as if this might be integrated into Firefox in the not too distant future.

Until then, probably the most sensible way to implement hardware-accelerated 3D graphics in a web browser is to use Flash.

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