WebGL support in the Android™ web browser

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?
Before going to the actual demo of the internal prototype project, let’s take a brief look at the technology behind it. WebGL is a low-level API JavaScript API defined by the Khronos Group. The API is based on OpenGL ES 2.0 and enables support for 3D graphics. WebGL enables application developers to take advantage of capabilities provided by graphical processor units which is a standard component on all modern smartphones. For end users this means that they will be able to enjoy more interactive and responsive applications without any installing any plug-in modules in the web browser.

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!

More information:

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  1. Pingback #1

    [...] more about WebGL  in Anders Isberg’s previous [...]

    • By Tobias Nilsson

      #3

      Hi,

      we are actually preparing a blog post on this topic. Check back in a couple of weeks for more info!

      Regards,
      Tobias from Developer World

  2. By alexcohn

    #4

    Mickey, this will help you avoid the AppStore redtrictions, when (and if) webgl will be available on iOS.

  3. By david e

    #5

    This looks great. It will save us developers a lot of time developing for multiple platforms, paying sdk development fees etc (on other platforms, which hopefully webgl will also spread to). As for users wanting apps in their menus, us developers can also release an app which just makes use of an embedded browser which access the site.

  4. By mikey g

    #6

    i can see the benefit of using webgl in a browser on a computer; you can create ria’s or games that users can play without downloading something, but it seems like the defacto way for users to play mobile games would be to download it through the app store, it would be easier for the user to just download an app/game and just click to run it, rather than launch the mobile browser, navigate to the app’s website, then launch it

1-6 of 6 comments.