Hi, my name is Anders Isberg and I work as researcher within Technology Research at Sony Ericsson. In this article I’m going to give an early preview of the future from an internal prototype project where Sony Ericsson has enabled WebGL support in the Android™ web browser. The article gives a hint of what kind of experiences that application developers will be able to create on smartphones while still maintaining the flexibility and portability of the web application model.
Check out a demo video of this after the jump!
With the introduction of application stores, the interest for creating applications for smartphones are bigger than ever. So far, the focus from the application developers has been on creating native applications that can be downloaded and installed from application stores such as Android™ Market.
However, with the next set of web standards like HTML 5, CSS 3 and WebGL, it will be possible to create web applications for smartphones with capabilities that was only possible with native applications before. This in combination with the fact that the future graphical stacks for smartphones will be hardware accelerated, which will enable the creation of compelling 3D user experiences. This could be, for example, 3D games, medical visualization, 3D content creation or 3D virtual environments using web technologies.
What is WebGL?
Even if WebGL is not ratified by Khronos Group as an official standard yet, support for WebGL has been available for some time. Beta implementations have been made in several modern desktop browsers, and there are several demo applications available on the web, for example the Google Body Browser. However, the availability of WebGL support for smartphones has so far been very limited.
WebGL for Android
Sony Ericsson has, for some time, been driving an internal research project to explore the possibilities with WebGL. The project has used the same hardware used for Xperia™ arc and Xperia™ PLAY, and implemented the bindings between the Android Webkit based browser and the OpenGL API supported by the Android platform. A video of a demo can be viewed here:
As you can see on the video, even if the example is created for a desktop computer it still renders quite well on the handset. It is envisioned that once the application is tailored for the capabilities of the device, even better experiences could be created.
Learning more about WebGL
If you are attending the Game Developer Conference in San Francisco, you are welcome to come to the Sony Ericsson booth to see a live demo of WebGL. To learn more on how to create applications utilising WebGL, there are several resources available on the Internet. Check out the links below to find out more!