Data Visualisation: Google’s Globe Shows Off Some Awesome WebGL features

March 22nd, 2013 by

Google WebGL Globe

Google’s Web Graphics Library, (WebGL) started as a Canvas 3D experiment created by Vladimir Vukićević at Mozilla. It is a JavaScript API used for rendering both two dimensional and three dimensional maps within a compatible browser with no need to use plug-ins. WebGL programs offer a basic control code written in JavaScript and shader code, which is then executed on the computer’s Graphics Processing Unit (GPU) Currently WebGL is maintained by the non-profit Khronos Group.

WebGL Globe is an open-source platform for geographic visualizations. Those designers creating infographics find it useful to present complex global data in a logical and legible format. However, designers are also using WebGL as a basis to extend 3D graphic visualizations and media through other programs too. This could make WebGL globe a foundation for future creative infographic design using map elements combined with other 3D elements.

Advantages

WebGL is an interesting experiment as it allows developers to communicate complex information in a legible way. The 2D and 3D features of WebGL offer an artistic representation of geographical bodies as well as historical movements. However, WebGL also offers technical features that make its use even more attractive to web developers and bloggers.

1 – Premade Code

WebGL offers premade source code that only needs to be copied and placed on a webpage. This framework allows any designer, no matter his skill level, to customize data options without needing to redesign the map graphics.

2 – WebGL in Javascript

This software library actually extends Javascript to offer 3D graphic capabilities without the need for plugins.

3 – Integrates with HTML 5

WebGL integrates well with HTML5, meaning it can be used in combination to create stunning, innovative designs.

4 – Offers Customisation

WebGL offers experienced designers a framework on which to base their more advanced 3D designs. Using content creation tools like Autodesk Maya or Blender, developers of all skill levels can customise map design options and can publish this 3D content using programs such as p3.d and Sketchfab.

Author Bio: Jason Stevens from jason-stevens.com / Freelance web developer, tech writer and follower of cloud computing trends. Follow him on Twitter: @_jason_stevens_.

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