Over the last few months, we’ve made a lot of progress using graphics hardware (commonly referred to as the GPU) to make Chrome faster and more power-efficient. …
… so we expect most content to continue to function normally for Google Chrome users with out-of-date drivers — albeit, without the same performance you might expect from Chrome. WebGL content on out-of-date systems will currently not display, but we are working to provide a software path so that these systems can run basic 3D applications. …
… As our ability to determine whether a machine can reliably use GPU features improves, we hope to extend hardware acceleration support to more and more users. …
WebGl is supported in the current beta versions of Chrome and Firefox. Most people who want to get started using webgl can. learningwebgl.com has a step by step process.
Chrome’s beta version installs in a sub directory and does not change or use your current non beta version of chrome. Firefox or minefield from the nightly builds does; although it is not impossible to setup a portable installation in a sub directory or usb stick; But, doing so requires additional steps.
Webgl uses opengl 2.0 which is not the newest version – it is supported by the vast majority of systems. Almost any system which is used for video games has opengl 2.0 or better.
The computers that do not are the ones based on a Intel video driver. ATI does have updates for all of their cards but! But many older laptops use a OEM driver and ATI chipset – those people need to turn to the laptop maker for driver updates.
For firefox there is an alternative to opengl 2.0 installed. The alternative is a software rendering using OSMESA32.DLL.
Software rendering allows webgl to work. However you do not get the same performance increase that comes from a direct interface with the graphics processor unit on the video card.
See example at Onepixelahead
points are created with 3 data fields x, y, and z. 3 or more sets of points are needed to create a face. Front face vs back face have traditional been determined by the order of the points — clockwise vs counter clockwise. The faces then need to be painted, do they face the light? Bitmap textures need to be transformed into a perspective view and be properly lighted. Shadows require dropping down to the pixel level — which is ray tracing not openGL at this point in time.
The quick and short explanation of how shadows are generally created in a virtual 3d world; Look at the light source in the same way you look at the camera view. Whatever is visible to a camera from the light source is lightened whatever is invisible is left in a shadow. The amount of lightening of the element face depends on the angle of this face to the light source.
If one goes back a ways one will find DirectX
This object API was limited to windows systems which have installed the object. Gave limited support for a 3d image. .x file format. The file format and the API gave little support for animation. Apart from rotations.
OpenGL is different it is supported by a wide range of systems and required for certain games to operate on the system. In fact Daz 3d studio fast mode animates in OpenGL.
I still have questions as to what and how access will be provided through the browser. If textured animated objects can be created on the users system and XML data which only contains the location and rotation of objects which have an imaginary skeleton to move objects attached to other objects. In other words a manageable amount of data to transmit to other systems in real time. Then what we have now for flash games are going to look like a ten year old arcade games very quickly.