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Google Launches 3D Driver Project For Chrome 63

Posted by timothy
from the disintermediation-nation dept.
CWmike writes "Google has launched a new project for Chrome that will let the browser run a wider range of 3D graphics content without downloading additional drivers. The open-source project, called ANGLE (Almost Native Graphics Layer Engine), seeks to let Chromium run WebGL content on Windows computers, wrote product manager Henry Bridge on the Chromium blog. WebGL is still-developing a cross-platform Web standard for accessing low-level 3D graphics hardware based on the OpenGL ES 2.0 API (application programming interface) that can be implemented directly in a browser without a plugin. 'ANGLE will allow Windows users to run WebGL content without having to find and install new drivers for their system,' Bridge wrote. Because ANGLE aims to use most of the OpenGL ES 2.0 API, it may help developers working on mobile and embedded devices, Bridge wrote. 'ANGLE should make it simpler to prototype these applications on Windows and also gives developers new options for deploying production versions of their code to the desktop.'"
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Google Launches 3D Driver Project For Chrome

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  • API (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    It's an API that uses OpenGL. It isn't a driver.

    • Re:API (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Goaway (82658) on Saturday March 20, 2010 @05:07AM (#31548172) Homepage

      What is, and what isn't?

      WebGL is an API based on OpenGL ES 2.0, which is also an API.

      The OpenGL API is usually provided by a driver. ANGLE, on the other hand, implements the OpenGL ES 2.0 API on top of Direct3D, thus eliminating the need for a driver that supplies OpenGL.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by beelsebob (529313)

        It's rather odd to do this though, given that every current and past nVidia, ATi and Intel graphics driver that I'm aware of *does* support OpenGL. Though perhaps not ES 2.0 (they're not embedded). I'm surprised they don't just translate into desktop OpenGL calls.

        • Re:API (Score:4, Informative)

          by jonwil (467024) on Saturday March 20, 2010 @05:30AM (#31548236)

          The problem is that the drivers typically installed by Windows (and that exist on many machines) dont include all the OpenGL bits that the proper vendor drivers contain, hence the need to download drivers from the ATI or NVIDIA or Intel site to get good OpenGL support.

          • Hardly a problem. Windows update changes those drivers to manufacturer versions that do include OpenGL.
        • Re:API (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Joce640k (829181) on Saturday March 20, 2010 @06:17AM (#31548368) Homepage

          a) If you install Windows from CD you won't get an OpenGL driver.

          b) If you buy a machine in the shops you quite often get an immature OpenGL driver because the machines have a.graphics card which was released a couple of weeks ago.

          In both cases the user has to go to NVIDIA / ATI / Intel website and download one, this requires navegating a bunch of questions about what exact model of graphics card is in the machine, which Joe Sixpack isn't going to know. On top of that, most laptop graphics drivers can't be updated with official drivers and the manufacturers don't ever provide updates.

          Direct3D drivers tend to be better because a certain company oils the development process.

          • by beelsebob (529313)

            a) If you install Windows from CD you won't get an OpenGL driver.
            If you install windows from CD you'll get graphics drivers that support no more than 640x480 in 256 colours, so that's rather a moot point... Or at least that was the case last time I checked.

            • by akgoel (153089)

              If you install Windows Vista or 7 from CD, it will recognize your graphics card and install a driver for it that was current at the time. Assuming your graphics card isn't a completely new platform, you will get full color and resolution on first install (though maybe not with up-to-date drivers).

              Works on every computer I've clean installed for both Vista and 7.

            • by Vlado (817879)

              It has probably been quite a while then, since you checked.

              For at least Windows 7 and Windows Vista you will get support for a full resolution (and I believe color depth) that your monitor supports. At least if you have an ATI or Nvidia card. Graphic performance will be poor, but you will be able to browse your web or work with your office apps.

              If I remember properly Windows XP was quite OK in that department as well (at least installs with SP2 integrated).

          • the current version of Windows (7) automatically downloads updated WHQL drivers via WIndows update at install time, if your PC is connected to the net.

            If you're not connected at the time of install, you'll get driver updates along with windows updates next time an update completes successfully.

            WHQL drivers are not the most current, but they usually are good enough.

          • nVidia's site can autodetect your graphics card. I forget if it uses ActiveX or Java though.
          • by westlake (615356)

            In both cases the user has to go to NVIDIA / ATI / Intel website and download one, this requires navegating a bunch of questions about what exact model of graphics card is in the machine, which Joe Sixpack isn't going to know

            He may not need to know:

            Option 1: Manually find drivers for my NVIDIA products.
            Option 2: Automatically find drivers for my NVIDIA products.
            Download Drivers [nvidia.com]

            Direct3D drivers tend to be better because a certain company oils the development process.

            The hardware manufacturers talk to Mic

            • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

              by SalsaDoom (14830)

              At least get your facts right here...

              "less fragmented than Linux"

              What a load of crap. Sorry man. The kernel world isn't really fragmented if your talking about hardware. All distros pull the kernel sources from the same place and just tweak it. As far as hardware support is concerned "fragmentation" is not a problem. There is not any valid reason for hardware manufacturers not to have kernel drivers. Fragmentation in linux is an annoying myth.

            • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

              by DaVince21 (1342819)

              There is almost no code fragmentation in Linux when it comes to drivers. Usually, there's an open driver in the kernel, and a proprietary driver provided by the hardware manufacturer, and that's it.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by scdeimos (632778)
          Actually, when Mozilla started implementing WebGL for Firefox last year they found a number of Intel cards don't have OpenGL drivers available for them. Users finding themselves in this position can use Mesa (software rendering) drivers instead, albeit slower. Users of Safari, which also has a WebGL implementation, won't have that issue since OSX has such good OpenGL support for Apple hardware.
      • by Punto (100573)

        the openglES api (or webGL) on a PC is also implemented on top of the regular opengl api. So it's the same kind of driver or (whatever you want to call it), except this one uses direct3d as a backend instead of opengl.

        • by Goaway (82658)

          It's not so much that OpenGL ES is implemented on top of OpenGL, it's that you can just call OpenGL as usual instead of OpenGL ES, since most functions are just the exact same thing. OpenGL ES just leaves functionality out (assuming your OpenGL implementation is new enough).

      • Sounds like the opposite of what Wine is doing (emulate Direct3D in OpenGL), which took a LONG time to do and is definitely showing a performance hit...

        Besides, pretty much any driver for any modern video card out there supports OpenGL, why would they want to do this?

        • by Goaway (82658)

          Besides, pretty much any driver for any modern video card out there supports OpenGL, why would they want to do this?

          Maybe because they actually tried to use OpenGL and found it wouldn't work quite as smoothly as you think it does? You know, they are actually writing a browser used by a huge number of people here, they actually have some experience with these things. They're not doing this for the hell of it.

  • No additional plugin, is it? Built right in? Direct access to low level 3D graphics hardware without finding drivers?

    That'll do wonders for Chrome being the fastest browser. And double the download size.

    • Re:Oh. (Score:4, Informative)

      by IamTheRealMike (537420) <mike@plan99.net> on Saturday March 20, 2010 @04:54AM (#31548144) Homepage

      Why would it double the download size? Did you RTFA? ANGLE is a translation layer that converts OpenGL calls into Direct3D calls. That is probably going to be "largeish" but it doesn't mean actually bundling drivers with Chrome itself.

      The problem this solves - in many cases OpenGL drivers on Windows don't actually exist or are unusably bad. If I was feeling uncharitable, I'd say the web/html5 community seems to be doing another video tag fiasco, in trying to set another standard that ignores marketplace realities (cross platform opengl is dead). By releasing ANGLE Google is trying to make Web3D not entirely irrelevant. This is only one of the many hurdles [google.com] originally identified by the Chrome 3D graphics team.

      • Interesting, sounds like the opposite of the situation non-Windows platforms have. IIRC, Wine translates Direct3D calls into OpenGL for execution via Mesa.
      • Re:Oh. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by fuzzix (700457) on Saturday March 20, 2010 @05:47AM (#31548294) Journal

        ...cross platform opengl is dead...

        As opposed to cross-platform DirectX which is alive and kicking.

        • Direct3D on OpenGL is actually a lot more mature than OpenGL on Direct3D thanks to years of development by the Wine teams. It's good enough to play a lot of modern, cutting edge games. ANGLE by contrast is still very new, it's not clear how much it supports right now.

          That said, I'm not arguing that web 3D graphics should be based on Direct3D :-) I actually quite liked the Google O3D approach - define a new API that respects the platform and performance constraints of the web. Soldering OpenGL onto HTML does

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by TheRaven64 (641858)

            I played with an OpenGL on Direct3D layer back in 2000. It existed because, back then, a lot of games used OpenGL but OpenGL drivers tended to be a bit worse than their Direct3D versions. I don't think the project still exists, but it's not a new idea.

            I found that Serious Sam works beautifully in WINE on OS X, but only if you choose Direct3D mode. The OpenGL version seems to use the wrong winding rule, so you get transparent triangles in all of the wrong places. From this, I conclude that it must be ea

    • by Rich0 (548339)

      If you think the download size is bad on windows, try downloading the source sometime.

      It is as if Google has never heard of the concept of dynamic linking, which makes it a real pleasure to build. Hmm, security update needs to change 3 lines of code, I guess I'm rebuilding qt again...

  • by slashbart (316113) on Saturday March 20, 2010 @05:00AM (#31548158) Homepage
    From TFA

    Many Windows machines can't render WebGL content because the OpenGL drivers aren't installed, even though the computer has powerful graphics hardware, Bridge wrote. Computers running OS X or Linux are fine, however, since those operating systems use OpenGL as the primary 3D API, Bridge wrote.
    "ANGLE will allow Windows users to run WebGL content without having to find and install new drivers for their system," Bridge wrote.
    Because ANGLE aims to use most of the OpenGL ES 2.0 API, it may help developers working on mobile and embedded devices, Bridge wrote.
    "ANGLE should make it simpler to prototype these applications on Windows and also gives developers new options for deploying production versions of their code to the desktop,"

    So WebGL works fine on real operating systems that already have OpenGL, and because Microsoft suffered from its not-invented-here syndrome, Windows computers typically can not do WebGL because they have no OpenGL stack. That't the driver TFA is talking about.

    • by julesh (229690)

      because Microsoft suffered from its not-invented-here syndrome, Windows computers typically can not do WebGL because they have no OpenGL stack.

      To be fair on MS, Direct3D wasn't invented there either: they bought it from another company, who had originally developed it before OpenGL was standardised. Once that was done, why would they switch to a competing product?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Gadget_Guy (627405) *

      My computer has a opengl32.dll, and it has a Microsoft copyright. However, it does require the graphics card manufacturer to provide a driver for their card. I don't know which graphics card would not come with one these days. Have a look at Windows Vista and OpenGL - the facts [opengl.org].

    • by KibibyteBrain (1455987) on Saturday March 20, 2010 @06:20AM (#31548378)
      Parent is totally inaccurate. Windows supports OpenGL fine.
      The issue is that Microsoft usually ships Windows with subpar distributions of graphics drivers for 3D support in general(not just OpenGL) compared to actual vendor drivers in terms of feature support beyond what you need to use basic Windows programs. Probably in some attempt to provide marginally more stable drivers historically under the assumption most users wouldn't need anything more than basic API support and everyone else would have their apps somehow manage to install/warn them to get a better driver package. This doesn't really work for WebGL, however.
      Google could just have their installer get you to update your GPU driver, but overall this is probably a cleaner solution for long term support since you have about +/- 10 year support expectations for Direct3D on a GPU in a way that is far better tested than OpenGL for "last years model".
      • by slashbart (316113) on Saturday March 20, 2010 @06:57AM (#31548470) Homepage
        Historically Microsoft has pushed very hard for their own DirectX 3D api. This happened after the OpenGL standard was already common for Unix workstations and such.
        So wether or not it's the card vendors or Microsoft, it's a fact that Microsoft created the non-uniformity of the 3D api world, by introducing its own non-open non-crossplatform standard.
        So ofcourse one can run OpenGL on Windows, but it's not easy, not standard, and often works badly. Which is exactly what Microsoft wanted when it created DirectX. A new 3D standard, that would be used in gaming, and that would make it harder (i.e. more expensive) for applications to be crossplatform; it thereby served its purpose: continuing and extending the dominance of the Windows platform.
      • The support of Direct3D/OpenGL isn't the issue. It's realistic to think (or hope) that someone with the capability to completely change the web might choose to use an open standard.
  • low-level 3D graphics hardware based on the OpenGL ES 2.0 API (application programming interface)...

    Since when Slashdoters are not aware what "API" means? It is a changing world....
  • by ickleberry (864871) <web@pineapple.vg> on Saturday March 20, 2010 @07:43AM (#31548572) Homepage
    Great. 3D ads, even more annoying than the flash-based ones
    • by Anonymous Coward

      At the moment I can just not install Flash. When all this shit is built into the browser, browsing will be a very ugly experience.

      • by rdnetto (955205)

        At the moment I can just not install Flash. When all this shit is built into the browser, browsing will be a very ugly experience.

        I almost never see ads. But then, I use Lynx...

    • by HoppQ (29469)

      Especially when they start optimizing for the new 3D displays that are supposed to become more mainstream in the coming years.

  • So I guess instead of punching the monkey in an old-school style, I'll have more of an opportunity to hunt him down and flack cannon the bejesus out of him, all while I'm trying to do something more important in my browser, my CPU fans going nuts will help alert me that there is a monkey fragging opportunity where I'm sure to win an iPod Touch.

    Sheldon

  • Linux? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by cavedweller96 (1549997) on Saturday March 20, 2010 @09:12AM (#31548954)
    Will we see linux support? I would assume so because they are using OpenGL instead of DirectX...
    • by paul248 (536459)

      WebGL works on Linux. For Chromium, you need to launch:

      $ chromium-bin --disable-sandbox --enable-webgl
      And view some demos: http://www.khronos.org/webgl/wiki/Demo_Repository [khronos.org]

      There's no point in having ANGLE on Linux, because Linux already has OpenGL support in most drivers.

      • by paul248 (536459)

        Wait, sorry, that should be:

        $ chromium-bin --no-sandbox --enable-webgl

        Although the --no-sandbox flag seems to have no effect here. Perhaps Chromium's sandboxing doesn't support my Gentoo configuration yet.

  • VRML was never used. For anything. How is this going to be different? What's the application? Javascript games?

    • by tlhIngan (30335)

      VRML was never used. For anything. How is this going to be different? What's the application? Javascript games?

      As much as I'd think we'd see good WebGL content, I predict the application will be "3D interactive ads".

      Much like how Apple and Adobe are fighting it out, with the latter saying 93% of the websites out there need flash. Which is true, if you count non-Flash sites that run Flash ads (usually through syndication). Hell, I bet advertising agencies are trying to push Flash everywhere, explaining why w

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