Google Intros Open Source Draco 3D Compression

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Google has created a new protocol for compressing 3D content, called Draco, and released it into the wild world of open source software. Draco's performance dwarfs most any algorithm out there for what it does in terms of sheer performance. It is not only capable of compressing meshes into the single digits of percent for file size in comparison to the original, but it also encodes and decodes meshes in web content incredibly fast, which is where the bulk of its implications lie. While it could certainly be useful to traditional game developers and 3D content creators, Draco could make 3D content on the web over slow connections feasible, and even help WebVR on its way to mainstream adoption.

Google demonstrated Draco's power by putting out a video showing Draco and common compression protocol GZIP loading a set of meshes side by side. Each of the 12 meshes had 2.4 million faces, and was being loaded over a high-speed connection in Chrome. By the time GZIP had managed to load up just three of the complicated models, Draco had finished its workload entirely. The entire thing happened in the span of a mere three seconds. On their blog post announcing Draco, Google also included some graphs, shown below, that show off just how powerful Draco really is. The C++ and JavaScript performance is especially significant; these areas are quite indicative of web performance.

3D on the web is a burgeoning art form, only now beginning to reach acceptable levels of advancement for VR and high-end gaming content, despite having been around for years in various forms. Newer 3D protocols and high-poly content could benefit immensely from Draco, as could high-density content such as WebVR. A normal 3D object on the web may have a few assets to load and give the user a standard view, but content in WebVR has to deliver enough meshes and viewing angles to create the illusion of a living, 360 degree world in order to be immersive, and it has to do this over a network connection in real time. The implications here are obvious, and Draco being open source means that the development community will get to improve it over time. Draco's other big implication, of course, ties in to a number of moves Google has made lately to make all web content more accessible over slow or limited connections.

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