Google Offers 3D Rendering in the Browser

Craig Buckler

Google O3DGoogle has released a new experimental browser plugin that makes it possible to display and animate detailed graphical 3D objects and environments directly in the browser.

3D browser-based technologies appear to be on the rise. Mozilla are working on a similar 3D plugin project and ID Software recently released Quake Live, a web-based version of their ground-breaking game.

Google’s project provides an additional approach and the company hopes that applications such as Google Earth will eventually run directly from the web. Their open-source cross-browser plugin directly utilizes hardware-accelerated rendering. Developers can import 3D objects using the open-standard COLLADA format which is supported by SketchUp, 3ds Max, and Maya. Those objects can then be manipulated using a JavaScript API.

Although this offers another 3D technology, Google admits that a standardized 3D web API is likely to be several years away and developers should only use O3D for experimentation at this early stage. However, they suspect O3D and the Mozilla Canvas 3D extension could eventually converge to create a single unified platform.

3D déjà vu?

Browser-based 3D is not new. In the mid-1990’s, VRML (Virtual Reality Modeling Language) was heralded as being the next big thing on the web, but the technology never became as widespread as expected.

Developing 3D applications is not easy, but perhaps these projects will highlight the potential of a 3D web environment? It is another matter whether web users can see the benefits and are ready to make the leap from 2D.


Will you try experimenting with 3D web development? Could your web application make use of the technology?