What I'm Working On: Mapping Demand in 3D

It’s been nice to see an increased awareness in the media community over the last few years of the opportunities to engage audiences on the Internet. There is a new batch of technologies becoming available that should enhance the kind of experiences, allowing for a level of interactivity and visual expressiveness that could match or rival the films themselves. I’ve been experimenting with some of these, and I wanted to share the results.

Among my favorite of these is the cluster of technologies around HTML5, including CSS3, WebSockets, faster Javascript and especially WebGL. WebGL is a powerful graphics library (analogous to OpenGL) that will give web developers access to hardware graphics acceleration in the browser, standard and without any plugins. Here is a demo I put together using WebGL to map audience demand data on the web to a 3D representation of the Earth.

This is just a prototype, and there’s a lot of room for improvement in performance, aesthetics and interactivity, but I think it shows the potential of what’s possible. The graphics are beyond what we’ve generally seen on the web before, and it’s combined with the kind of portable data that has been spreading around the web for the last few years. I’ll try to clean up the code and get a live demo online soon.

For now, WebGL is only available in Beta versions of Firefox and Chrome (and maybe Safari?). They’re worth downloading early if you’ve got the guts for the occasional bug, and they’ll hopefully be released in the next few months. If you want to take a shot at developing with WebGL yourself, there are great lessons at Learning WebGL and at Mozilla.

I’ve got lots more demos coming, and they’re cooler than this one, so check back for more in the next week or so. I’ll be posting them on YouTube and on Twitter.