3D graphics play a vital role in a large amount of scientific software. Until very recently, however, Web browsers offered little in the way of powerful tools for the creation of compelling 3D graphics software.
All Articles in This Series
- WebGL for Chemistry Part 1: Introduction
- WebGL for Chemistry Part 2: Displaying a Sphere in a View
- WebGL for Chemistry Part 3: Hello, Benzene!
- WebGL for Chemistry Part 4: Bond, James Bond
WebGL™ changes all of this. From the about page:
The novelty of WebGL means that documentation, although available if you know where to look, is somewhat jumbled. And very little of the documentation that has been written discusses the subject from the perspective of scientific data visualization.
This article is the first of a technically-oriented, in-depth series on the application of WebGL to chemical data visualization problems. A previous article discusses some of the potential for WebGL in chemistry.
Currently, Chrome is the only major browser to support WebGL by default. WebGL is already available in developer/beta versions of Firefox and Safari, and will likely be available in release versions soon.
Support for WebGL on Internet Explorer is unlikely, at least for the upcoming IE9 release. What happens after that remains uncertain, as Microsoft has commented little on the subject.
A High-Level API for WebGL
WebGL is a complex beast, as a few hours working through the Learning WebGL Lessons will reveal. Rather that diving deep into WebGL, we’re going to use a toolkit that makes it possible to work at a substantially higher level.
When learning any new technology, it helps to set a goal. In this series, we’ll be working toward producing a browser-based component capable of rendering static 3D representations of small organic molecules.
Let’s call our component M3D (Molecule 3D).
We’ve set a goal (display a 3D representation of a small organic molecule using WebGL) and identified a tool to help us get there (PhiloGL). The next articles in this series will show how to use PhiloGL to render basic drawing primitives.
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