Creating 3D Interactive Content with WebGL 

Session 509 WWDC 2014

WebGL allows you to create amazing content that lifts off the page. Learn how to use WebGL to create immersive online experiences, display three-dimensional models with real-time interactivity and use image processing techniques typically thought of as unavailable on the web.

Hi, everyone.

I’m Dean. In a few minutes, my colleague Brady will go come up on stage.

We’re both engineers on Apple’s WebKit team.

How often have you heard a presentation start with “Today, I’m really excited to talk to you about blah, blah, blah?”

And I told myself I didn’t really want to introduce this session that way and then I realized I actually am really passionate about this topic because over the past few years, I’ve worked on a lot of graphics technologies on the web like SVG and Canvas, CSS transforms, animations, filters.

And I really think like WebGL is the next significant leap in the type of graphics you can do in a web browser.

WebGL takes the power of the OpenGL ES standard, which is popular on mobile chips and combines it with the speed and convenience of JavaScript, the web’s programming language.

This means-Well, because you got this proliferation of really powerful GPU hardware combined with this incredible performance improvement in JavaScript, we’ve hit this sort of sweet spot where you can do these amazing graphics.

This is going to give you the full power of a configurable and programmable pipeline, as well as performance, both because you’re talking directly to the GPU and because JavaScript is super-fast nowadays.

This is going to allow you to write web content such as showing an interactive 3D model while still maintaining the flexibility and ease of use of having your text and interactive controls in HTML.

Or maybe you want to take that 3D model a little bit further and do something like an architectural walk-through flow through a building site.

You can see here we’ve got more advanced lighting, shadows.

There’s also data visualization and mapping.

We all know 3D mapping is becoming more popular.

But it’s not just 3D.

Let’s say you want to do a 2D-You want to provide something like an image editor that’s doing 2D operations on your content.

And here, you get to do something that previously wasn’t available or was difficult to do in regular JavaScript.

Well, something that’s very popular on the web is just doing image transitions.

So here, we’ve got something a bit more exciting than a normal image slide where we can do a 3D ripple effect.

And of course, there’s games.

This is a demo, AngryBots, by Unity where you’ve got this console level game engine which has things like realistic lighting, particles and shadows and also the ability to destroy evil robots.

Or maybe you want to do something like casual gaming and this is Swooop by PlayCanvas.

And it’s a really great innovative take on the infinite 2D runner where instead of like sliding along in 2D, you’re actually flying this sort of nice stylized plane around this 3D island; it’s quite fun.

So, what are you going to learn today?

We’d start by how to set up-how to get access to WebGL and set it up in your web page.

And then, we’re going to show how to do basic drawing with WebGL.

And this is going to be sort of like crash course into how to draw something with WebGL and you get an idea of how powerful the rendering system is.

Once we get that, we’re actually going to move on to advanced drawing and how to do simple animation.

And lastly, because it’s a web technology, we want to tell you how WebGL fits into other parts of the web platform.

But the important topic is where is WebGL available?

And we’re happy to say that WebGL is available in Safari, on OS X Yosemite, and that was announced on Monday.

[ Applause ]

And what wasn’t announced, but I’m happy to say, is it’s also available in Safari on iOS.

[ Applause ]

The even better news is this-WebGL is available on every device that can install these operating systems.

If you’re a programmer and you want to use WebGL content in your app, you’re going to want to know about the modern WebKit API and its WKWebView class.

Now, one of the many benefits of using this new modern API is that you get full benefit of the JavaScript Nitro engine, which means your content has got to be running super-fast which we all know is Craig’s mom’s favorite feature and she’s updated all her apps to use the modern API.

Something else is that the API surface area between iOS and OS X is identical and this means that your content should run the same on both devices with, of course, the understanding that some devices don’t run or don’t have as powerful GPUs, but otherwise, it’s identical.

And similarly, because it’s a web standard, that same content should run on other browsers that support WebGL.

Now, creating great 3D content is made a lot easier if you have a good tool system.

And even though WebGL is a relatively young technology, it does have a sort of thriving ecosystem of tools.

And there’s a couple I want to call out in particular and these are big vendors, Epic Games, the makers of Unreal Engine, and Unity Technologies, the makers of Unity, both have announced WebGL export from their systems.

This means not only do you get the state-of-the-art 3D engines and editing environments, you also get access to their marketplace where you can purchase 3D models or materials or other assets to help you make your content.

Another example is the company called PlayCanvas, who also have a 3D engine and editing tool, but they do it all within the web browser, and this means that you can have distributed teams working inside of a browser editing the same content; it’s really cool.

If you’re a developer, there’s a bunch of open source libraries and I’ve just listed a few here.

Most of these do wrap the low-level WebGL API and something higher which allows you to program in terms of spheres and cubes and materials rather than buffers and triangles.

But today, we are going to talk about buffers and triangles because we think it’s important that you understand that level of programming especially if you are using some of these high-level tools.

You have some hints as to what might be going wrong and what you can do to improve your content.

Before I get into that, I just want to talk about one thing which is motivation, why we’re doing this.

So, Apple has always considered rich, powerful graphics to be super important to web developers and to the Safari engine.

And in fact, this is why about a decade ago, we invented the which is what the basis of WebGL is.

As soon as WebGL was announced, we joined the working group and to this day, we volunteer ourselves as the editor of the specification.

So, next question is why do we choose OpenGL?

OpenGL is the most important standard graphics API that’s around.

It’s already been demonstrated.

It can run on a billion mobile devices.

And the content you can create there is still just amazing on other devices or more powerful devices as well.

So, again, it sort of made a no-brainer that we choose the best standard and that way, all browsers can implement it and we end up with WebGL.

OK. So, let’s get coding.

Like all programming examples, we want to start with “Hello, world” and we got to the “Hello, world” of WebGL.

So, imagine you’re opening your text editor and we’re starting with a blank slate.

We’re just going to type a few commands and create something that’s this 3D interactive environment.

We’re actually going to start with something very simple which is just a triangle.

But while that might sound disappointing, if we go back to the 3D environment, we look at it and think actually-let’s take a look-it’s actually made up of millions of little triangles and each of those triangles have color or texture applied or some lighting.

And then we’re rendering it again with another pass where we might be doing blurs or glows or shadows or whatever.

And when you combine them all together, you actually do get the advanced rendering.

So, you learn a lot of detail from how to draw one triangle and the power that you learn goes on to create better things.

So, let’s start creating, configuring and drawing.

And for that, we need 4 things.

First, we’re going to need somewhere to draw to, something to draw on to.

Then, we’re going to need something to draw with.

Then, we’re going to configure that thing, choose what paint we want to paint with.

And lastly, we got to do the drawing.

We’ll go through each of these steps one by one.

So, let’s start with something to draw onto.

And artists like myself call this a canvas which is super convenient because HTML already has an element called

So, we’ll use that.

And this is like a regular image element except instead of getting the graphics to draw from say, a file on the web, you provide the commands in JavaScript that draw into the image and then the browser renders that.

You might already have one in your page as a or you can create one through JavaScript via createElement.

In my example, I’m going to pretend that I’ve already got one in the page and I’m going to select it using the DOM API and I’m going to store in the local variable “canvas” ’cause I want to reference to it later.

Now, before I can draw into it, I need to tell the system how big an image it is or how many pixels it needs to allocate so that when I draw the rendering happens into that image.

And I do that by setting the width and height variables on the canvas.

Here, I want to set it to 600 by 400 but also I want to take into account if I’m on a Retina display, I want a higher resolution image, so I’m querying window.devicePixelRatio.

That’s all I need for something to draw.

The next thing is I need something to draw with.

And in WebGL, that is the WebGLRenderingContext.

This is the object that exposes the entire WebGL API.

In code form, you do that-you get one quite easily.

You just call getContext passing the string parameter WebGL.

If you’re familiar with 2D Canvas rendering, you would have seen someone call this with a 2D string and you get the 2D API.

So here, we’ve-we’d code it with WebGL and we have a variable called GL, which is the thing we got to draw with.

If you’re familiar with Native OpenGL programming, you might be wondering where did I set my pixel format and create my render buffers and frame buffers, et cetera, you don’t have to do that in WebGL.

The previous step allocated the image that you got to draw into and this step is giving you the context that you got to draw with, that’s all you have to do.

Next, we’re going to need something to-We need to configure the system and this is where it gets a little bit tricky so if-with only a few lines, we’ve got something to draw with, now we’re getting into the native system.

We got to give-This is where we’re got to start the crash course in WebGL rendering.

Before we are able to render something, we need to do a few things.

We need to create buffers.

And buffers are just a set of data that we got to upload to the GPU.

And that data can be any types of things but they’re almost certainly got to contain the geometry that we want to render.

Next thing we need is a program which is going to be the actual way that WebGL renders it.

Now, you’re going to be a bit confused here because we’re already making a program what’s-is this another program and the answer is it is, we got to get into the details of what it is later.

But just imagine that you got to be writing some specialized code that gets uploaded also to the GPU and executed there.

Let’s start with the buffers.

I want to draw this triangle, and the triangle is just made up of 3 points.

In WebGL, the coordinate system goes from minus 1, minus 1 on the bottom left to 1, 1, on the top right and I want to create a buffer out of these 3 points.

So, what I’m going to do is allocate 6 values, an array of 6 values and I’m going to map those points to those 6 values.

So here, I’ve got (X1, Y1), (X2, Y2), (X3, Y3).

This is all I need to upload to the GPU.

So, I’m going to show you how to do that in WebGL.In JavaScript, we just start with the array of 6 values.

This is a JavaScript array.

And I’m going to assign it into a Float32Array.

And this is a special type array in JavaScript and that’s telling the system that I want it to imagine or allocate this data as a fixed-length array where each value is a full byte floating point number.

This comes in handy because when we upload it to the GPU, we’ve already told the system what the type of data is and that way, it-so it doesn’t have to do another conversion from JavaScript.

So, they actually create the buffer.

I’m going to call it createBuffer command.

And now I’m going to provide the data that is going to be uploaded through the GPU.

So, I just tell it, “That buffer you just created?

Send that vertex-vertices variable up there.”

And that’s all we have to do to create a buffer.

Now, we’re going to talk about the program.

Now, conceptually, what we’re doing is we’ve got some JavaScript commands we’re executing and then we’re going to end up with pixels on the screen.

But what really happens is that we process some JavaScript, it gets sent to the WebGL rendering pipeline and it’s the thing that draws.

So, we’ve really got to understand what’s happening in the WebGL rendering pipeline.

Now, you can look up OpenGL textbooks and they all explain the same thing, but it’s made up of basically 8 steps, and each of these 8 steps you have different configuration options you can pass to them.

But these 2 that you have almost complete control of over and they’re the 2 most important ones and the ones we’re going to talk about today.

And that’s the Vertex Shader step and the Fragment Shader step.

If we take them in isolation, we can really consider that for the sake of this presentation, I’m executing JavaScript.

I’m going to send the commands into the Vertex Shader.

The Vertex Shader is going to do something with it, send the command-send the output onto the Fragment Shader which is going to do something to it and eventually, we get the pixels on the screen.

And this combination of the Vertex Shader and the Fragment Shader is what we were referring to as the program before.

Now, Shaders are these little programs that you got to write in another language which we’ll get to later and they’re the things that execute on the GPU.

And the reason there’s two of them is they have two different operations.

The Vertex Shader is mostly about geometry.

So, you’re passing in points to it and it’s got to output converted points.

The Fragment Shader is really about what color of pixels you’re going to do based on the input of points.

If we rotate this diagram clockwise 90 degrees, we’ll look at it another way.

Here, I’ve got the buffer that I’ve allocated before and I’ve uploaded to the GPU.

I’m going to send it into the Vertex Shader., except it doesn’t quite work this way.

And this is where the power of GPUs comes in to play.

I’m actually going to separate each of those by buffering to a set of three vertices and it gets sent to a different instance of the Vertex Shader.

And these were all executed in parallel on the GPU.

And this is where you get this great performance.

So, given a Vertex, which is just the (x, y) point in this case, the Vertex Shader is going to do something and create another point and send it back to the system.

And when the system has collected all the points, it’s going to do what’s called rasterization.

So, it now knows where the geometry on the screen is going to be displayed and which pixels are going to be touched.

But it still doesn’t know what color to draw the pixels and it’s-this is the next step where it’s very similar to the Vertex Shader steps.

It’s going to take all those pixels and then send them out to a bunch of parallel instances of the Fragment Shaders.

And the Fragment Shaders just have the one task: given a pixel, what color should it be?

Let’s look at the code for this.

I’m going to start by creating a vertexShader object which I do by createShader, passing in the parameter, telling it that it’s going to be of type, vertex shader.

And next, I’m going to tell it to provide some source code for the shader.

I’m not showing you the source code at the moment but you can just imagine I’m getting it from somewhere.

It might be I create it by JavaScript or I might have preloaded it or got it from the internet and we’ll get to that later.

I’m going to compile it, which is turning it into commands that we can use later on the GPU.

I do the same thing with the Fragment Shader.

It’s pretty much identical.

Of course, I’m going to use different source code, which we’ll see.

Once we have those two objects, the vertexShader and the fragmentShader, I want to create a program and we tell the program that it’s two objects that it needs to talk to, or the two shaders we created.

I’m going to link it and then lastly, I’m going to tell WebGL that this is the program I want you to use when you do your drawing.

So, that’s all we have to do for configuration.

So, we now have a setup where we have something to draw, we have something to draw with and we’ve configured it to draw and the last thing we need to do is render our masterpiece.

Now, the next tricky step.

I haven’t shown you any source code but what we-what the general idea is here, we have a bunch of WebGL-we have a bunch of JavaScript and we have some buffers on the GPU that are what I want to render and I’ve got these programs that I got to render it and I need to, through JavaScript, tell the system how I’m binding the data in those buffers to variables in my program.

And you’ll see the variables in the program later.

But the first thing I’m going to do here is say, when you come to execute the program, there’s going to be a variable called “aPosition” and I want you to associate every vertex in the-that you’ve uploaded as a buffer to that variable.

Next, when you actually go to use the buffer, I have to tell the system that, well, I’ve uploaded X, Y, X, Y, X, Y so I want you to assume that when you’re processing this buffer, take it two at a time and that they’re floating point values.

Then, I just have to draw.

I’ve sent a buffer.

I’m going to draw the vertices in the buffer starting position zero and I’ve got three of them which makes the three points in the triangle and eventually, we end up with a triangle on the screen.

Now that-if we have to look at the source code all at once, you might be a little bit worried that it was actually a fair bit of source code.

I’ve skipped some in the slides because I wanted to add some error checking or whatever.

But the important thing is actually while you only drew a red triangle, there’s an insane amount of power behind that red triangle.

That power comes from the shaders and that’s what we’re going to look at next.

So, I didn’t show the source code to the shaders, but we’ll get into that.

Shaders are written in a language called GL Shading Language or GLSL.

It’s a C-like language designed for parallel graphics.

What this means is that it’s got-it looks like C but it’s got some extra primitives for vectors and matrices and also some operations on those primitives so that you can multiply matrices and whatever.

You don’t have to do the math yourself.

It also has a bunch of built-in functions, such as trigonometry functions or other operations on the matrices, like dot products and normals and some other sort of helper functions to make the – that are common in graphics operations.

Let’s go back to the view of the rendering pipe.

So, I have the buffer that I was sending off to multiple Vertex Shaders that we’re sending on to Fragment Shaders.

But we’ll simplify it again and come back.

Now, the data I was sending in, the buffer at the top that you’re familiar with, I-at the moment, I only have X, Y positions but really you can send any data into it.

So here, I’ve just added some other data.

And again, this is the-these are your input to the Vertex Shader.

Each part, chunk of the buffer is going to be associated with the vertex and sent in to a Vertex Shader instance.

But you might want to send data into the Vertex Shader that’s shared across all the instances that are running and you do that by using uniforms.

And these are global constants.

So, good examples of this might be the current frame of the animation that you want to run or the mask position or the time-the rendering time or maybe the camera position on matrix that you want to do as a viewing position.

So, the Vertex Shader is going to operate on those two sets of inputs, one’s coming per vertex and the other one that’s coming as global variables and that only has one task and that’s to produce a point.

And it produces that point by writing to the global variable called glPosition.

The Fragment Shader is quite similar.

It’s got to use the position that was passed by the Vertex Shader and any other data and the global constants and it’s going to write to one thing which is the color of the pixel which it does by writing to the global variable, GL fragment position.

Let’s look at the-finally, look at the source code.

So, my Vertex Shader, I’ve picked basically the most simple Vertex Shader I can do.

Now remember, we saw that we were binding in JavaScript the value aPosition-sorry, the variable aPosition to the buffers that we passed in.

Here’s where I actually get to do it.

So here I am in the Vertex Shader saying the data that comes in from the vertex, I want you to associate it with the variable aPosition and I’m doing the one thing I have to do which is writing to gl-Position and I’m just writing the same value that I got in.

It’s just sending the inputs straight through.

At this step, normally, you would do something like map from your world coordinate system into the camera coordinate system, which then the camera maps it into the screen coordinate system.

But because I-the data I send is actually really and already in the screen coordinate system, I can just pass it through for convenience.

The Fragment Shader is equally simple-the Fragment Shader example is equally simple.

I’ll start with some boilerplate.

And the boilerplate is telling the system what level of precision I want it to use for floating point operations.

And then I’m going to write the color of the pixel and, in this case, I’m writing to gl-FragColor.

I’m going to write every instance that the Fragment Shader is writing the same value which, in this case is four-a vector of four values which is the red, green, blue and alpha values.

So here, I am writing 100 percent red, 0 green, 0 blue and 100 percent alpha and this is why every pixel came out as red.

Now that was pretty simple.

And to take it and show you a little bit more power of the shaders, I’m going to show a live demo.

OK. So, here’s our triangle.

Now, this is running in Safari and it’s a web page and what you’ve got is a-the top half of the screen is a WebGL canvas that’s drawing the triangle we did before.

And the bottom half of the screen is showing the source code to the shaders.

So, in this case, it’s showing the Vertex Shader, and here’s the Fragment Shader.

And this whole environment is live.

So, if I make an edit in the page here, it’s going to grab the source code out of the page, recompile the program, upload it to the GPU and render again.

It’s actually rendering constantly here.

You just don’t see it because nothing’s changing.

So here’s an example.

Let’s say here’s the-me writing the color of the pixel and I’ve set it to 1, 0, 0, 1.

If I change this to just 1, I get full red, green, zero blue and I get yellow.

Let’s reset that and go back to the Vertex Shader.

So, you can see here is the attribute that I’m passing in and I’m also passing in some uniform values which is the time, as in, every time I render, I update that value so that I can read it in the shader.

So, I could do something tricky here like, well, maybe I want to do some kind of coordinate transform.

I want to make the triangle twice as high so I just multiplied the Y position or I can do something like if I take the attribute in and I say I want the X value to be the Y value and the Y value to be the X value, we’ve got this flipped triangle.

I’ve got a preloaded one which is doing it here.

So, in this case, what I’m doing is, I’ve got the input variable that I’ve post in called time and I’m just mapping that between 0 and 1 and calling it-assigning it to the variable called progress.

And then when I come to write the position, I’m just telling the position that I want to interpolate between the X and the Y positions using that progress value and that’s why you get this nice reflection across the diagonal axis.

Let’s reset again and go back to the Fragment Shader.

Now, we can do some cool things in the Fragment Shader.

For example, I’ve got this communication between the Vertex Shader and the Fragment Shader where I’ve alloc-of telling it, the shader, where the position in X and Y is of the fragment.

So, if I say instead of the green value, I set it to be, say, fragPosition.x, then we get a gradient because the value moves from 0 to 1 across the triangle.

Again, I’ve got a preset one so I don’t have to type it out, but I’m doing something similar here where the red value is the X position, the green value is the Y position and then the blue value is oscillating over time so you get this nice triangle that’s moving.

I’m kind of getting sick of the triangle so let’s have a look at it in wireframe mode.

Now, we said that really GL is about drawing lots of triangles.

I want to draw a rectangle, which is really just two triangles joined together.

And if we go back to the solid mode, you see that the same animation is still running.

Now, what’s really impressive is this program is running and calculating the value of every pixel every time we draw.

And this really blew my mind when I first saw it but even this is a pretty simple example and we can do way more cool things.

So, here’s a little bit more code.

But what it’s really doing is just taking some sine waves and with slightly different offsets and adding them up to get this interactive thing.

So, there’s no images here, it’s all being calculated live.

And the cool thing is you can play around with stuff.

So, here is where I basically choose the frequency of the plasma so I can make it a little bit higher by dividing by less and, let’s say I don’t really like the colors, this is the-here’s the point where I’m assigning the color value.

Let’s say, instead of minus 4, let’s do plus 4, I like those colors a little bit better.

And I can go up here and say, “Well, here’s the number of iterations that I’m adding up.

So let’s say, go down to 7.

Let’s do something like 3, kind of like that.”

This looks pretty cool.

Now, as programmers you’ll know that you can do cool things like here.

Let’s say I want to change the value of Pi, something that’s quite hard to do in the real world as far as I’m concerned.

We will say something like 5, 6, or we can go-that’s kind of a nice effect.

You can even do something like crazy-what happens if I, hold on a second.

Now, I came across something earlier in the week which I really liked, which was-I saw on the web and it was a guy and his name is Israel and he saw the WWDC branding and said, “Hey, I could write a Shader that does this,” and I asked him if I could use it and here’s the code.

This is really cool, so this is again a program that’s running for every pixel every time we draw and it’s sort of this interactive WWDC logo.

And you see, scroll down, there’s a fair bit of code.

Amazing that it’s all running every step.

Let’s say I want to comment out the final one and get black.

You could sort of see what he was doing in each step, so there’s the gradient.

There’s the balls that he was animating.

And he sort of masked them out to that and then eventually it gets the square grid.

I think this is really cool.

So, I wrote this whole system in a couple of hours, what’s important to you is that there’s actually a couple of communities out there that have something very similar, and the GLSL workspace, or becoming what is called a playground, maybe.

And if you look this up, you’ll see whole examples of amazing shaders that will really blow your mind.

So, in wrap up, shaders are C-like programs that you write in GLSL and upload to the GPU.

You get complete control over the vertex positions that you pass in and the color of the pixels you render to the screen and they’re extremely powerful.

So with that, I’m going to pass it on to my colleague Brady.

Who’s going to talk to you about how to do advanced rendering.

Thank you, Dean.

So, so far, we’ve seen the Hello World program of WebGL, the basic triangle.

And yeah, there was a little bit of effort to get that basic triangle on the screen.

But once we’d gone through that effort, with just a few lines of shader code, we start to achieve some pretty fancy things pretty quickly.

And there’s a lot more to be said about shaders and we’ll get into that more very soon.

But I want to start out focusing back on that red triangle.

So, what is that triangle?

The triangle is three points in space.

I can rearrange those three points and move this triangle and reshape it however I’d like to.

Make it really skinny and tall.

Now, I have two triangles, two slightly different colors.

This is starting to look very familiar to me for some reason.

Oh, that’s why.

OK. So, that’s part of the needle of the compass in the Safari logo.

So, let’s build up on this a little bit.

We’re going to take the Safari logo and we’re going to bring it into the third dimension using WebGL.

So, this is the most basic example of a 3D compass you could say.

But except for that picture on top, it’s basically just a gray disc.

So, this gray disc is actually very similar to that red triangle that we started out with.

And by that I mean, it’s nothing but a whole bunch of triangles itself.

As Dean has already mentioned, even the most complex scenes in WebGL are just hundreds, thousands, maybe even millions of triangles.

So, for each of those triangles, we have three points of course.

Let’s go back to the code that Dean has already showed us where we take three points to make a basic flat triangle and upload it to the GPU.

And for our disc, our basic little gray disc, we’re just going to do more of the same, a lot more of the same.

So, how did I get all these coordinates here?

I’ll tell you what I didn’t do.

I didn’t calculate them by hand.

I didn’t type them out by hand.

I used a tool.

As Dean has already touched on, your toolbox is very important when programming with WebGL.

Unless you’re doing the most basic of examples, a handful of triangles, you’re probably going to want to rely on 3D modeling tools, preexisting 3D models to shape your geometry and the appearance and get them into your WebGL program.

There’s great native tools.

There’s great web tools out there.

Dean touched on a few.

But what they all have in common is that they’ll export vertex data.

And that is any data you want.

That’s what a vertex is.

It’s any data you want for any point you want.

We’ve already touched on the most obvious bit of this data, which is the coordinate: the X, Y and Z coordinate of that point in space.

We can also directly include the color of the point.

But then as we get into more advanced graphics programming, we’ll want to include the normal vectors of the point.

This tells WebGL which direction the point is facing, which is important for things such as lighting later on.

And then we can also include texture coordinates.

So, what are textures?

Textures are just flat bitmap images, an array of pixels and each pixel has a color to it.

You know this as an image, right?

So, here’s the Safari icon; it’s just an image.

But what texture coordinates do is they map those pixels from the image onto our three-dimensional shape.

So, we can have the basic, uncolored 3D shape and use a flat image to define what colors it will show.

So, how does this look in code?

Back to our example of uploading the geometry of our shape onto the GPU for use in our shaders program-our Shader programs, here’s the first 10 pixels from the disc.

So, for each of these 10 vertices, we have an X, Y and a Z coordinate.

And then our tool can also output the texture coordinates.

These are just X and Y coordinates into a texture image to map the pixels onto our geometry.

Instead of working from the native pixel count of the image, it works from 0 to 1.

So, once we have that data from our tool, we need to get it onto the GPU.

So, you’ve already seen the code that Dean showed us about how to get the position vertices up onto the GPU.

We’re going to do a little bit more of the same to get the texture coordinates to the GPU.

We’re going to specify a new attribute.

Remember, an attribute is a way to specify to the GPU the inputs into the shader programs.

And we’re going to say that the input to the texture coordinate attribute is our texture coordinate buffer.

And then, we’ll go ahead and upload the data from that JavaScript array onto the GPU.

Now, back to our Vertex Shader source code.

This is the most basic Vertex Shader example that Dean had showed us, where we have that position attribute as an input.

We’ll just go ahead and add the texture coordinate attribute as an input as well.

And now, it’s available to the Vertex Shader.

One of the examples Dean showed in the demo had what’s called a varying variable in the shader program.

He didn’t touch on what that is, so I’ll tell you now.

A varying variable is a quick and easy way for the two shader programs to share data.

So, by declaring the vTextureCoord variable, we can pass data from the Vertex Shader to the Fragment Shader.

And then, since we’ve already pre-calculated what the texture coordinates are, we don’t need to transform them in any way.

We’re just going to pass them on directly to our Fragment Shader.

So, over in the Fragment Shader source code, you’ll make a similar change.

We’ll declare that texture coordinate attribute and now it’s available in the Fragment Shader.

So, this is the texture coordinates.

We’ve gotten them from our tool.

We’ve gotten the JavaScript array for them.

We’ve uploaded them to the GPU.

Now, the coordinates are available in that Fragment Shader program.

Now, we need to worry about the texture itself.

So, the way WebGL gets the pixel data from an image that is your texture and uses it in the shader programs is by using a sampler.

So, back on our JavaScript where we’re configuring our shaders, we’ll just declare a sampler variable.

This is uniform variable as Dean already mentioned, it’s a global variable that JavaScript can assign to, to pass some data into the shader programs.

So, once it’s been declared in JavaScript, we can go back to our Fragment Shader and declare it there in GLSL.

The type here is sampler2D, that’s one of the few types in the GL language that operate on textures.

And once we have that sampler, we’ll change that straight red color where we’re saying every pixel is red.

And now, we’ll use the sampler with this quick function call.

What this function call does is it says, for the texture source represented in the sampler, I want the color of the pixel at this texture coordinate.

And then we assign it to gl-FragColor and that’s what’s going to show up in the scene.

So, Texture Source.

What is a texture source?

In OpenGL, it means one thing.

Here in WebGL, we’re working with web technologies.

There’s a few different options for your texture source.

The most obvious is the

If you have an image in your HTML page, in the markup, and your page is finished loading, you can use that image element as a texture source.

You can also create an image element dynamically.

And as long as you’ve waited for it to load, those pixels are ready to be uploaded to the GPU.

You can also grab data from a server directly using XMLHttpRequest.

You can-XMLHttpRequest has the ability to grab the raw bytes of the response and that is used in WebGL to get those vertex points into the shader.

Then there’s a

The video element is a great way to display video in your webpage without using any plug-ins in a native web technology manner that interacts with all the other web technologies created.

But what a video really is, is just a sequence of images.

So, if you use a video element as your texture source when you’re drawing a frame of your scene, it’ll grab the freeze frame of whatever is being shown in the video element at that point in time and that freeze frame will be used as the image for the texture.

Last but definitely not least, some pretty cool possibilities with the

You can draw whatever you like into a canvas element: an image, text.

You can use the canvas 2D drawing APIs to draw a 2D scene.

You can also use the WebGL API to draw a three-dimensional scene into a canvas, and then use that canvas as a texture source for a different WebGL scene.

This way you can render one 3D scene to be used in another 3D scene for a movie screen or a billboard or television or much more creative ideas.

But how this looks in code, we’re just going to stick to the basic image element.

Here’s an image element I have in my HTML markup and it’s pointing to an image that represents the Safari logo.

Now, in JavaScript, first, we ask the GL context to create a texture and then, similar to what we’ve done a few times, we bind-do some binding voodoo to specify which texture we’re working on.

TEXTURE0: this constant might seem a little weird.

The story behind TEXTURE0 is that each program, each set of shader programs can access up to 32 textures and there’s a constant for texture 0, 1, 2, all the way up to 31.

We’re just using 1 in this example, so we’ll stick with the first.

Then we get our texture source.

Using this basic DOM API, we grabbed a reference to the image element.

Now, this line of code is where the magic happens.

In this line of code, we’re updating the raw pixel data, the RGBA bytes, 8 bytes per component, and we’re uploading it to the GPU to be used in our shader programs.

And the key in this line is the texture source, and that’s the image element you’ve grabbed, and this is where you might put the XMLHttpRequest, the or the if that’s what you’re doing.

And then, we’re going to go ahead and interact with that uniform variable that we created earlier, the sampler, and now we actually need to set its value.

And the value we’re setting here is zero because we’re working on TEXTURE0.

Behind the scenes, WebGL translates that into an object that says, “I’m going to be sampling pixel data from texture image zero.”

Now, we’re ready to go and that Vertex Shader can put those pixels onto the screen from our texture.

So, using textures, we can map a flat 2D image onto our 3D geometry.

In this example I’ve been talking about so far, it’s a very basic disc and a very flat image that’s just mapping one to one.

But using our tools, we can have a much more complicated texture where different regions of the texture represent different parts of the geometry and then we can have much more geometry as well.

So, I’d like to show you a live demo of what we’ve talked about so far.

So, I’m not going to show you any code in this demo.

I just think it helps to visualize what I’ve been talking about with these texture coordinates by building up an example.

So, here’s our very basic three-dimensional disc.

You can see it’s got a wireframe which is nothing but a whole bunch of triangles that build up this round shape.

But as I alluded to in the slide right before I started the demo, we can have a much more complex version of this.

We can build up the geometry to represent the features of the compass in three dimensions.

And then, we can go ahead and apply that complicated texture onto that geometry, and now, we have a live 3D representation of a compass.

Now, to really convince you it’s live, let’s start animating.

So, this is a really quick little routine that’s just animating a camera around the compass, following some sign waves and the time, just to kind of give an ooh, aah, view of it.

To further convince you that this is a live 3D model, I can show you that parts of it are independent from another.

So, let’s go ahead and start that needle spinning.

So, all that data generated using a tool, its output, the coordinate information, the texture-the position coordinate information, the texture coordinate information, it’s also outputted a whole bunch of other vertex information that we’ve uploaded to our shader programs and can be using to show this compass.

Now, the same code was being executed both in JavaScript and on the shaders no matter which geometry and vertices I’m passing into it.

But vertex information does not need to come from a tool.

We can also procedurally generate vertex information.

So here, we have a terrain underneath the compass that we’re generating in JavaScript.

It’s just a few dozen lines of code to generate this strip of terrain underneath.

So, we can move the compass over to terrain, the needle is still spinning, and some more advanced things we can do, too, right now I haven’t talked about yet but we’ll get into in a little bit more detail later.

So, we can add some lighting.

So now, we have some lights animating over the terrain.

You can see how they affect the entire scene and the compass itself.

So, in that demo, we showed a live representation of a few of the concepts we’ve been talking about so far: outputting complex geometry from a tool, outputting texture information from a tool.

But the code that are in the demo really was only a few dozen lines of JavaScript and Vertex Shader programming that we’ve already gone over.

There’s some additional JavaScript to animate things.

But it barely scraped the surface of what WebGL can do.

Even with that procedural terrain generation and the lighting effects which I haven’t told you any details about, that’s still barely scraped the surface of what WebGL can do.

It is immensely powerful.

It is a toolbox unto itself and trying to describe everything would take a lot more of these sessions.

So, I’m not going to go into much more detail on any of that, but I am going to talk about a different toolbox now, like to shift gears and touch up on the web platform a little bit.

The web platform is pretty mature at this point, it’s been around for dozens of years and WebGL is just one of the newest star children tools in the web platform.

But there’s also some very basic tools that are still there.

HTML is what started it all.

HTML specifies the content and structure of the document in your webpage.

And then a little bit later, we introduced CSS, which specifies how that content is presented.

CSS can do simple things like change the font of some text, but it can also animate the transitions of an image or any element from different points on the page, including 3D transforms.

That’s already been available in CSS, a native web technology that preexisted WebGL.

And then of course, there is JavaScript.

We’ve talked a lot about JavaScript today because you use JavaScript to drive WebGL but JavaScript also has native DOM bindings to the HTML content and can transition styles on the page.

So, using just this bottom tier of technologies, the HTML, the CSS, and JavaScript, we’ve already been able to do some pretty cool things.

For example, if I wanted to go into and create a 3D image gallery, I wouldn’t need to jump into WebGL just to do that.

The HTML can specify a series of images and their relation to each other, the order in which they appear.

The CSS can define a 3D presentation of those images and JavaScript can drive some CSS animations between them.

Something else that’s already been possible is really advanced text operations.

Using HTML and CSS and things like the font-face rules, you can add your own fonts to content, you can really finally tweak how the font is rendered and it’s pretty simple to do versus, if you try to do font rendering in WebGL, you might find it much more difficult.

Also, in this little video I just showed, you can see that HTML and JavaScript have built-in event handling for the mouse pointer and a whole bunch of built-in controls and built-in hit testing for different elements on the page.

These are all built in and easy to use already.

And then at an even more basic level, what HTML does is lay out content.

It lays out texts and other elements on a page.

You can see in this iBook example, the text flows beautifully around elements on the page and that was basically all free for whoever wrote that content and put that image into that document.

And then very importantly, sticking with the native web technologies whenever you can gets you accessibility for free.

So today, we’re talking a lot about tools, and the point I’d just like to drive home here is to use the appropriate tool whenever you can, it’s an old programming adage and it’s really true when we take a platform as mature as the web platform and introduce as something as powerful as WebGL.

And finally, I have one more thing we need to talk about and that’s when to draw.

So far, Dean and I have described a lot about how you render an individual frame in your scene, you set up the geometry of objects and the colors and you set up your shaders and then you make a call to draw triangles and, boom, you’ve rendered a still frame.

Now, each of the demos we showed you had animation involved.

How did that animation happen?

Well, as you know by now, JavaScript drives drawing in WebGL, but JavaScript is not always running.

Take this beautiful web page here, it’s clean and looks nice, but it’s also very static and as long as I’m the user and I’m not touching the mouse or keyboard and I’m not interacting with the page at all and the page is very static, it doesn’t have timers or any other things going on, no JavaScript is executing.

So, how can we render WebGL if no JavaScript is executing?

Well, but then if I start moving the mouse over the page, and selecting things and dragging and bringing up menus, now, JavaScript is executing a whole bunch, except, it’s responding to all these events that are happening.

It’s executing asynchronously hundreds of times a second.

So, in one of those little JavaScript executions, you could do some drawing, but you probably shouldn’t draw in every single EventHandler that’s called because that’d just be crazy.

You’d be drawing-trying to draw hundreds of times a second.

That can’t possibly work because drawing takes a long time compared to how quickly these events would normally be handled.

You can only get bits to the screen 60 times a second.

So basically, you just slow down responsiveness.

You’d start chewing through CPU and battery life and you wouldn’t even gain anything out of it.

But there are times when you might want to draw in direct response to one of these events.

Imagine if you’re rendering a 3D button using WebGL and the user clicks on it.

You might immediately want to redraw your scene to update the state there.

That’s great; that makes sense.

If you have a complex scene that is animating a lot of geometry though, you probably want a smooth animation.

You probably are going for that 60 frames per second animation.

Now to get that, I can tell you one steadfast rule: please don’t use timers!

JavaScript timers are a way to execute a chunk of code at some point in the future that’s based on a time delay.

This, it turns out, is not appropriate for rendering animations.

One example where it’s inappropriate is that the system might be under load and you might not be able to keep up with 60 frames per second.

So, if you set a timer to run 60 frames per second, not knowing the system is under load, you’re going to be trying to draw more often than your drawing can be presented onto the screen.

This is just wasteful.

It’s going to waste CPU, heat up the user’s mobile device, burn through the battery.

So, what can we use instead?

There’s an API specifically for drawing that you should use instead of timers and it’s called requestAnimationFrame().

Much like a timer, you pass a callback to request animation frame.

So that’s the first thing you do to use it.

Now, when is your callback called?

Your callback is invoked when WebKit Safari or the application that runs WebKit, knows that it’s time to draw.

So, if the system load is light and your drawing is simple enough, you can keep up that 60 frames a second, so requestAnimationFrame() will be called 60 times a second.

If the system is under a little bit of a heavier load and you can’t keep up with that, it’ll call request-it’ll call your callback less often.

If your web content is in a background tab in Safari, for example, or the canvas your WebGL is painting into is offscreen, request animation frame might be called much less often or not at all because WebKit knows that drawing a scene that can’t be seen is not important.

So, here, we have a drawingCallback function and we set it up to be called by calling requestAnimationFrame with the drawingCallback.

Inside our callback, we do some drawing.

This can be updating physics based on the amount of time that’s passed, responding to queued up user events that we’ve logged as the user was moving the mouse around and pressing keys and such, and then we can draw the individual elements for our scene: the compass, other entities, the terrain in the background.

And then when we’re done drawing, we request the next callback.

We’re telling WebKit, “Hey, we finished drawing one frame.

Now it’s time for me to be told when to draw the next frame.”

And that’s it.

So, that’s all we have to talk about, about these nitty-gritty topics, the code and how things fit together with the web platform, but I want to show you one final demo.

I’ll call it the requestAnimationFrame() demo because this demo certainly does use requestAnimationFrame().

But it also uses a whole lot more.

So, our friends at Epic Games were happy to let us use this demo from the Unreal Engine, and this is just a really cool little temple thing we have.

Let me go ahead and take it full screen.

So, this is rendering in Safari.

This is executing JavaScript.

This is executing Fragment Shaders and Vertex Shaders, and what we’re seeing is just amazing.

So, there’s a lot going on here.

We have light, reflection.

A lot of these surfaces are really interesting: marble and glass.

We have fire casting reflections and light.

As we move around, you can see the background scene being reflected off the shiny walls.

Let’s climb these stairs over here.

So, as I enter this hallway-let me go back and forth just a few times, I love this-you can see this orange reflection on the wall.

So, I’m wondering where that orange is coming from.

Something also interesting is you see this room over here is a lot brighter, the engine is doing HDR for dynamic lighting effects to great effect.

So, we can see that these fires on these podiums here, they are casting shadows into the hallway.

Here’s more examples of the HDR contrast.

I mean, there’s a bright room, so it’s dark off in the distance.

This is millions of triangles, millions of vertices.

It was generated with some pretty advanced tools, but then the actual code that drives it isn’t nearly as advanced as the data that’s coming in.

It’s just relying on the power of GL and the power of the web platform to do previously impossible things, using the tools of the web platform.

And to wrap us up, I’d like to invite my colleague Dean back on stage.

[ Applause ]

Thanks, Brady.

That’s pretty awesome and, like I said at the start, WebGL is insanely fun technology to play with.

So, while you might not get quite to the Unreal Engine straight away, you can certainly play with stuff right away and get some amazing input.

Let’s wrap up.

So, WebGL provides rich, fast, powerful graphics inside the web browser.

It’s available in Safari, on both OS X Yosemite and iOS 8.

And it’s also available in the modern WebKit API, WKWebView, if you’re a developer.

With that, I want to tell you-direct you to more information.

There’s an email address you can get for contact with Apple.

There’s a few websites and, of course, WebKit is an open source project so you can follow along with that development on

There’s some related sessions: the one yesterday on the modern WebKit API, which is definitely worth checking out, and we’ve got one tomorrow on the Web Inspector and Modern JavaScript which, of course, is important to WebGL.

And we’re looking forward to seeing whatever you do.

Have a great rest of the conference.

[ Applause ]

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