A friend of mine called me up the other day and asked me if I knew of a way to create a simple maze application on a web page. I told him to google O3D (and view the samples in particular) and then phone me back to tell me how fabulously awesome it was. A little while later, I got that call. He could not believe what he was seeing.

O3D is a 3D open source cross-platform, cross-browser Javascript API (which you can find here). There have been several other attempts at introducing 3D to a web browser, but all have failed. XRML is just plain old, X3D is rather high level, which impacts performance and Flash 3D is dependant on the speed of the Flash engine.

O3D is different. It is fast. Very fast. The reason for this is that the API hooks directly into the low level OpenGL and Direct3D libraries. This strips away several layers which normally exist between a web application and the system hardware.

There is a little competition though. A project by the name of C3DL seems to be competing on similar grounds, although at this stage it needs the latest version of firefox 3.5 to run and is still considered experimental.

The one worrying thing about all this is that there lacks a clearly defined standard for 3D graphics on the web, which will likely mean a coming technology war amongst the various plugin providers.

And until that dust settles, I’ll be backing O3D.