Animation and 3D: the web is doing it wrong

In Animation and 3D: the web is doing it wrong, I argue that the way the web does animation and 3D is completely bogus and deserves to die. With Tao Presentations, we offer a dynamic document description language that lets us write shorter code that is much closer to storytelling. We’d like to bring this to the web.

Have you ever created a dynamic animation on a web site, or displayed a 3D object? Really, why is it so complicated? Why should I learn how to use half a dozen libraries, write dozens of line of boilerplate HTML, WebGL and CSS code, just to rotate some text on the screen or display a 3D object? Why do I need three (or four, or five) languages, libraries or frameworks to design a single animated web page?
In the realm of business presentations, Tao Presentations solved this problem with a 3D dynamic document description language, letting you easily create sophisticated interactive 3D animations and presentations. What if we brought this very innovative platform to the web? What kind of applications would become possible if we improved web browsers in the areas of storytelling, interactivity, 3D or multimedia?

Coding a DNA strand in 3D

In this live coding session, we demonstrate how to quickly create a DNA strand in 3D:

The whole code is below:

import LuckyStarsTheme
theme "LuckyStars"

picture_slide "Did DNA come from outer space?", 
    light 0
    light_position 1000, 1000, 1000
    translate -300, 0, -300
    rotatey mouse_x
    random_seed 12345
    dna_strand with -30 .. 30

slide "Arguments in favor", 
    * "Tardigrades can live in space"

dna_strand N:integer -> 
        translatey 50 * N
        rotatey 10 * N
            rotatey 90
            color "#BBB"
            cylinder 0, 0, 0, 10, 10, 200
        dna_base_pair random (0, 3)

dna_base_pair N:integer -> 
    dna_base_color N mod 4
    sphere 100, 0, 0, 40
    dna_base_color (N + 2) mod 4
    sphere -100, 0, 0, 40
    dna_base_name 140, N mod 4
    dna_base_name -140, (N + 2) mod 4

dna_base_color 0 -> color "red"
dna_base_color 1 -> color "blue"
dna_base_color 2 -> color "green"
dna_base_color 3 -> color "grey"

dna_base_name X:integer, N:integer -> 
    text_box X, 0, 40, 40, 
        font "Arial", 30
        color "white"
        align 0.5
        vertical_align 0.5
        dna_base_text N

dna_base_text 0 -> text "C"
dna_base_text 1 -> text "A"
dna_base_text 2 -> text "G"
dna_base_text 3 -> text "T"

Taodyne – Tao Presentations documents: execution and drawing model

This article explains how Tao Presentations proceeds to transform a document (.ddd) into images on the screen. It describes an interesting mechanism making it easy to create dynamic documents that depend on events such as time or mouse movements. Moreover, this technique also allows Tao Presntations to optimize the rendering of graphic elements, enabling smooth 60Hz drawings even with complex contents.

Taodyne – Tao Presentations documents: execution and drawing model.

Meta: Talk about LLVM

I gave a short talk about LLVM today. The link to the talk is tao:// (sorry, can’t make it a hyperlink, as WordPress removes the tao:// part…). To watch this link, you will need Tao Presentations, which itself uses LLVM for the rendering.

Rendering of the LLVM talk with LLVM within Tao Presentations

This is not the first meta-talk made with Tao Presentations, but for some reason, this one reminds me of the first time I presented HPVM from a Powerpoint within HPVM.

Taodyne’s best wishes – Source code version

I have release the source code for the “Season’s Greetings” from Taodyne. This can give you an idea of what XL can do today. In that video, which is rendered in real-time and in 3D, the XL program executes 60 times per second to synchronize the animations on the screen with the background movie.

In other XL-related news, I’ve been working on an updated language reference document. This describes where I want to bring XL, notably the type system and library. A lot of what is in this document is not implemented yet, but it will give the directions that I intend to follow in the coming months.

Designing a new programming language

I’ve been working for years on a programming language called XL. XL stands for “extensible language”. The idea is to create a programming language that starts simple and grows with you.

All the work of Taodyne, including our fancy 3D graphics, is based on XL. If you think that Impress.js is cool (and it definitely is), you should definitely check out what Tao Presentations can do. It’s an incredible environment for quickly putting together stunning 3D presentations. And we are talking real 3D here, with or without glasses depending on your display technology. We can even play YouTube videos directly, as the demo below shows.

But the paradox is that the work for Taodyne keeps me so busy I’m no longer spending as much time on the core XL technology as I’d like. Fortunately, vacation periods are an ideal time to relax, and most importantly, think. So I guess it’s no chance if Christmas is one of the periods where XL leaps forward. Last year, for example, I implemented most of the type inference I wanted in XL, and as a result, got it to perform close to C on simple examples.

This year was no exception. I finally came up with a type system that I’m happy with, that is simple to explain, and that will address  the demands of Tao Presentations (notably to implement easy-to-tweak styles). The real design insight was how to properly unify types, functions and data structures. Yep, in XL, types are “functions” now (or, to be precise, will be very soon, I need to code that stuff now).

Another interesting idea that came up is how to get rid of a lot of the underlying C++ infrastructure. Basically, symbol management for XLR was currently dome with C++ data structures called “Symbols” and “Rewrites”. I found a way to do exactly the same thing only with standard XLR data structures, which will allow XLR programs to tweak their own symbol tables if they choose to do so.

An interesting rule of programming: you know you have done something right when it allows you to get rid of a lot of code while improving the capabilities of the software.

Back to coding.