3D… on the web. It’s here… again, but this time in fine Google form with all the openness you would expect from the crew. Tuesday, Google opened the gates on their interactive 3D graphics accelerator for web browsers, O3D.

It’s a browser plug-in, complete with a fresh API for anyone interested to play with. For web users, it’s the next rich 3D experience on the web and Google’s attempt at giving you native 3D support in your browser… without a plug-in.

So gather round the screen, load the plug-in and cozy up to the virtual blaze that is emanating from your browser. It’s Google 3D time.

The Goal. No plugin.
Doesn’t 3D already exist on the web with Flash? Yep, and others aiming at other dimensions as well. But currently, all the ‘3D-on-the-web’ functionality requires some kind browser add-on – Flash, Virtools, Canvas 3D, or any of the array of VRML and X3D plugins. You get the prompts. You install, restart and get some neat 3D on your screen.

Everyone is after 3D, it seems. The nice thing about the Google project, is it’s an open API and it’s got the Google exposure… but so did their failed Lively 3D World. It’s also going up against the Mozilla and Khronos 3D on the Web initiative using OpenGL. Mozilla, the makers of the Firefox browser – OpenGL, a readily accepted Open 3D standard.

So, tough road ahead for Google? Take a look at the video below and the samples to see for yourself. With the API and the loading of some of the samples, they may just have a chance, but Native support in Firefox, I doubt it. More likely that you see it in Google’s Chrome Browser and on their mobile android platform.

The Video

For SolidWorks and other 3D CAD users
If you’re a SolidWorks or other 3D CAD user, you may wonder how any of this Web 3d stuff applies to you. You won’t be designing products on the web right now, but it is possible to get your models into these open environments. 3DVia uses the 3DXML format.

COLLADA is another similar open XML format that many 3D formats can be exported to. Right now, you can take your SolidWorks models, export them to COLLADA, and with a little O3D API knowledge have it up on the web to be used in… a game? or something.

Where is 3D on the web going?


Josh is founder and editor at SolidSmack.com, founder at Aimsift Inc., and co-founder of EvD Media. He is involved in engineering, design, visualization, the technology making it happen, and the content developed around it. He is a SolidWorks Certified Professional and excels at falling awkwardly.