Dev

Kinect in a smartphone? Amazing Cirque du Soleil Chrome experiment reveals the future of web browsers

Controlling a browser with your eyes? Playing a game in a web browser on your smartphone by waving your hands in the air? That and more is the future of the web, according to Google.

I just spoke to Google’s Pete Lepage about the Chrome experiment a Google team built in partnership with Cirque du Soleil … and about what it means for the future of web technologies on desktop, tablets, and smartphones.

The project is Movi Kanti Revo, which just won an award from TheFWA.com, and it’s an experiment in how to build and control native web pages and apps in news ways — for example, by accessing your device’s camera and allowing you to point your way through the interactive experience by tilting your head. In addition, it’s an experiment in creating full-motion photorealistic environments that play out in front of you like an interactive movie … all without a single visible movie embed.

“With Chrome experiments, we’re always looking for new ways to ship new technology,” Lepage said. “We’re always trying to do something completely different, completely unexpected. That’s where navigation came from.”

The technology is entirely client-side — nothing runs server-side in Movi Kanti Revo. Site developers used HTML to get the elements on-stage, and then created complex, nuanced transitions and transforms via new CSS3 animation properties. The team used Javascript to do facial detection for motion through the experience and changing the “camera” orientation live according to a user’s gestures, and delivered high-quality video in Google’s own WebM format for Chrome users on a desktop machine, but substituting H.264 for mobile users.

“It definitely took us a few months to build,” Lepage told me. “We spent a lot of time with designers … a lot of those scenes are hand-drawn.”

On desktop, however, there are limited sensors to access — primarily the webcam. Lepage sees more possibilities in mobile and is excited about what the native web can do in mobile.

“I think this is one of those things that is really going to take off on the web in a year or so,” he said. “And not just for casual games but for the big games too. Imagine playing Halo and having the webcam going automatically to chat with your friends.”

On mobile, there’s more sensor availability: orientation, movement, and, in newer phones, a front-facing camera. That promises to give developers abilities in the future that can only be imagined on an Xbox 360 Kinect-like environment today.

“That what’s exciting,” Lepage told me, “giving users access to things they previously had to buy special hardware for.”

And it does take some hardware: Movi Kanti Revo got the fan on my MacBook Air going after just a few minutes. Lepage says that’s probably the GPU, as everything on the site is hardware accelerated. But they had tested on Nexus 7 tablets and Chromebooks — not particularly beefy machines — and had seen “pretty good performance,” he said.

But hardware, including mobile hardware, is getting better every few months. And with it grow the possibilities for developers to create new experiences for their audiences.

Image credits: Google, Cirque du Soleil

blog comments powered by Disqus