Google launches 3D graphics driver project for Chrome

The project is designed to let Windows users run WebGL content in the browser without OpenGL drivers

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 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. But while WebGL is implemented in many browsers, it is dependent on a set of OpenGL drivers. OpenGL is an API for 2D and 3D graphics rendering, available on Windows, Linux and Mac OS X operating systems.

The competing graphics API is Microsoft's Direct3D, which is part of the company's DirectX graphics technologies. Microsoft's DirectX technologies have increasingly become dominant in PC gaming, and OpenGL has almost disappeared, according to a blog post from Wolfire Games, which still uses OpenGL for its games.

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," Bridge wrote.

ANGLE will be released under a BSD license, and the project is on Google's Code Web site.

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