Unleashing GPU acceleration on the web

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Since our previous post, we've made good progress on 2D graphics performance: 2D canvas acceleration is now available in trunk and the canary build by using the --enable-accelerated-2d-canvas command-line switch (coming to the developer channel shortly). We’ve also been hard at work improving our 3D graphics stack. Today, we’re excited to release a set of WebGL demos to help highlight what you can do with the API.

Chromium’s 2D canvas acceleration uses the same GPU process infrastructure as the compositor, which is designed to maintain the same stability and security Chromium has always had. In addition, this system picks the best graphics API to use on each OS that Chromium supports: Windows XP/Vista/7, Mac OS and Linux. We haven’t finished implementing accelerated 2D canvas support – there’s no Mac support and some functions are not accelerated yet – but Chromium already achieves some impressive gains on the recent IE9 Platform Preview Test Drive 2D canvas demos:

These early numbers show up to 60x speed improvement over the current version of Google Chrome. With Google Chrome’s fast release cycles, we expect to be able to get these enhancements to users quickly and add new performance improvements over time.

We’re excited to give developers fast 2D graphics, but we think truly hardware accelerating graphics on the web means giving developers access to a programmable 3D graphics pipeline with WebGL. Even with accelerated 2D canvas and SVG, it’s still not possible to achieve many graphics effects with these APIs. (To read more about the progression from dynamic 2D to CSS Transforms and WebGL, check out our recent blog post). With WebGL and 3D CSS, developers can create modern games, impressive photo galleries, 3D data visualizations, virtual environments, and whatever else they can dream up.

To give you a taste for what WebGL can do, we’ve worked with a number of talented artists and developers to create the first round of a series of demos, ranging from a realistic aquarium to a 3D wall of photos. We hope these demos help demonstrate even more immersive experiences made possible with these APIs. So check out our demo gallery with an up-to-date canary build or Chromium build and have some fun with using your GPU in the browser! For a quick peek at some of these demos, you can watch our playlist of preview videos:



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