WebGL: beauty in numbers

Posted on December 18, 2013


WebGL is a JavaScript library used for rendering 3D and 2D graphics within a compatible web browser (anything that isn’t Internet Explorer 11 or below).

Using this technology, web designers and developers now have a new vista to explore in rendering graphics and animations without the use of flash. A great example is Mozilla’s ‘Flight of the Navigator’, which uses WebGL and live Twitter feeds within its display.

Another good example is a website called Acko. Its creator, Steven Wittens, has developed a great deal of visualisations that use WebGL, from 3D helixes and representations of waves to fractals.

A recent contest called JS1k, which challenged WebGL developers to create something interesting and unique within 1kb of JavaScript code, prompted Wittens to create this example – a creative 3D visualisation that is reminiscent of the responsive music displays of programs like Winamp and Windows Media Player.

The more mathematically inclined users will find the site incredibly interesting, as not only does he create these visualisations, he explains the calculations behind them, giving weight to Diadochus Proclus’ statement: “Wherever there is number, there is beauty”.

This opens up the idea that mathematics may become a more prevalent core skill of a web designer. Mathematicians may even find themselves inundated with requests for help to calculate and plot points of strange geometric shapes.

It could be time to break out the calculators and school textbooks, as web design is about to get a lot more complicated.

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