Avalon 3D: Do we need it right now if it doesn’t deliver what we need?

Ryan Dawson made a post called “Avalon 3D Must-Haves”. In the post he makes a few good points about the 3D stack in Avalon that I figured I’d chime in on. Here goes…

I think his first point is the most important. If we can’t use another scene as an interactive texture on a 3D surface then that’s a major let down. Anybody remember a technology called Chrome? Most likely not since it didn’t make it into the real world. It was next-generation rendering technology for IE that was going to bring mixed 3D/HTML content to the browser. This was back in ’98, but even then, when 3D hardware was basically just taking off (think nVidia Riva 128 with 4MB of RAM) and all they had was DirectX3(?) at the time, they had the ability to use another web page as a surface on another 3D object. Not only that, but the web page was fully interactive! Links worked, you could navigate around, you could interact with other DHTML content, etc. I did a couple demos with it back in the day and even though it never made it back then, I knew it was only a matter of time before it showed up in the mainstream. Anyway, my point is, if they could hack it together then by getting IE to render itself to an offscreen buffer, then map that as a texture onto a 3D object and then translate the mouse movements from 3D coordinates to back to the underlying IE instance that contained the web page so you could interact with it, they should certainly be able to pull it off today with an architecture built from the ground up on today’s massive GPUs.

I do, however, disagree with the point about animation not being important. UIs of the future need to be more fluid. They need to move and react to the user and make better use of all three dimensions. Animation is the key to acheiving that, but much like any other technology it can certainly be misused/overdone. That said, I do agree it needs to perform better than it does at the moment (let’s not forget this is alpha software though). What I don’t need is full fledged DoomIII quality scenes flowing at 160fps in my Avalon application, but a guarenteed 30fps for the foreground app is a must. This is going to be extremely difficult for Avalon on “older” kernels since this kind of functionality requires a new driver model for dealing with the GPU.

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