Google's O3D Joins Mozilla's Effort to Bring Rich 3D Environments to Browsers

by Ostatic Staff - Apr. 22, 2009

Google is out with an open source browser plugin called O3D that provides a JavaScript API for building and displaying accelerated, rich, interactive 3D applications directly within browsers. There is a demo video available here showing surprisingly good 3D graphics running on a Mac, and the plug-in works in Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari, and Chrome. In this blog post, Google makes clear that it is pushing O3D as a conversation starting point for "an open web standard for 3D graphics." Mozilla is working on open source efforts in the same space, and some surprises could come quickly from these efforts.

We covered a 3D graphics initiative from Mozilla and Khronos here, and we've written widely about how open source, 3D worlds, and 3D gaming are converging, including here,  and here. Mozilla and Khronos have their eyes on browser-based 3D graphics tools that can lead to gaming applications within browsers, and 3D environments all around the web, including on social sites such as Facebook and MySpace. The Canvas 3D graphics Firefox extension is found and discussed here.

Google's O3D is a different implementation from Mozilla's, but there is a good chance the two 3D graphics efforts could converge, as discussed here. Google describes O3D as "a new, shader-based, low-level graphics API for creating interactive 3D applications in a web browser." Google's blog post adds:

"We wanted to build an API that runs on multiple operating systems and browsers, performs well in JavaScript, and offers the capabilities developers need to create a diverse set of rich applications. O3D is still in an early stage, but we're making it available now to help inform the public discussion about 3D graphics in the browser. We've also created a forum to enable developers to submit suggestions on features and functionality they desire from a 3D API for the web."

Google has also created discussion groups for O3D here. The overall hope from both the Mozilla and Google camps is that advanced, open 3D graphics capabilities will make it directly into browsers. I'm betting that will happen soon, especially in Firefox and Chrome, which could give them more advantages over Internet Explorer than they already have. I won't be surprised to see 3D games within browsers taking off as well, and 3D environments created within browsers for many social networking sites.