Computer Scientists Join Forces to Make Interactive 3D Graphics Part of the World Wide Web

August 8th, 2012
Interactive 3D graphics are not available on the World Wide Web even though almost all PCs as well as mobile and embedded devices already contain high-performance 3D graphics hardware to process it. Now, computer scientists from the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence and Fraunhofer Institute for Computer Graphics Research are joining forces to change that. Together, they are working to describe computer scenes in spatial detail directly within the websites’ code.

The German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI) in Saarbrücken and the Fraunhofer Institute for Computer Graphics Research (Fraunhofer IGD) in Darmstadt have agreed on a common proposal to extend the Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) to also include advanced graphics capabilities. The proposal allows for easily describing 3D geometry, its material properties (shaders), lights, and virtual cameras as new HTML elements. "These elements can be used almost exactly like existing HTML elements. Therefore, millions of Web developers can quickly begin to include interactive 3D visualizations in their Web applications," says Philipp Slusallek, professor for computer graphics at Saarland University and scientific director in the DFKI and in the Intel Visual Computing Institute (VCI).

"By identifying a small core of essential building blocks from the existing prototypes and scene-graph standards for a interactive three-dimensional  experience on the Web, we have made it as simple as possible for browser vendors to include the new technology but still offer Web developers the full flexibility for designing fully dynamic and interactive 3D Web experiences," says Johannes Behr, head of the Competence Center for Visual Computing System Technologies at Fraunhofer IGD and leader of the X3DOM development team. The proposed declarative extension to HTML offers a high-level approach for Web developers, extending the low-level procedural approach to talk to graphics hardware now offered by WebGL. "Instead of requiring Web developers to become WebGL experts or learn new APIs, we are adding advanced graphics capabilities to HTML, allowing Web developers to reuse their existing skills and directly apply the Web technology they use on a daily basis," explains Kristian Sons, head of the XML3D research group at DFKI/VCI.

At least two implementations will be made available: For the short term a JavaScript implementation using WebGL for rendering will allow developers to get started immediately, while a native implementation integrated within the browser will offer optimal performance and full functionality.

The two institutes originally each had their own proposals, namely X3DOM and XML3D, but recently joined forces to define a common standard. The two groups distilled their technologies into the essential components needed for bringing interactive and highly dynamic 3D graphics to the declarative world of HTML. "Our two proposals were essential in order to gain experience and evaluate a number of different approaches," says Yvonne Jung, senior researcher and core developer for X3DOM at Fraunhofer IGD. This joint research was supported by the German Software-Cluster initiative and the Intel Visual Computing Institute at Saarland University.

The joint proposal will be officially presented at the SIGGRAPH 2012 and Web3D conferences this week in Los Angeles. A more detailed specification is scheduled to be presented to the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) at its yearly Technical Plenary / Advisory Committee meeting (TPAC) in early November and will be offered to the W3C Community Group on "Declarative 3D for the Web" for further discussions and potential standardization.

Presentations about the joint proposal will be made at the following events around SIGGRAPH:

SIGGRAPH BOF: X3DOM a Declarative 3D Solution

WEDNESDAY, 8 AUGUST 10:00 AM - 11:00 AM |
Los Angeles Convention Center - Room 513

SIGGRAPH BOF: WebGL

WEDNESDAY, 8 AUGUST 4:00 PM - 5:00 PM |
JW Marriott Los Angeles L.A. Live - Gold Ballroom Salon 3

SIGGRAPH BOF: X3DOM a Declarative 3D Solution

WEDNESDAY, 8 AUGUST 10:00 AM - 11:00 AM |
Los Angeles Convention Center - Room 513

SIGGRAPH BOF: WebGL

WEDNESDAY, 8 AUGUST 4:00 PM - 5:00 PM |
JW Marriott Los Angeles L.A. Live - Gold Ballroom Salon 3

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