Is WebGL the best solution for my project?

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Sterling Wright

Aug 8, 2022, 3:21:29 PMAug 8
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Hello All! I trust everyone is well.
My name is Sterling. I have some Unity experience but no WebGL and am only a low-degree, front-end coder.

Please, I need to build a project and am wondering if WebGL is the best tool for me to use? Clearly, in a group of WebGL developers, the answer will reflexively, be yes! :-) 
But, if there is something more appropriate, or easier for me to use, I would love to learn what that is. Thank you for taking a moment to consider.

Here is what I need to accomplish:
  • import a  Native 3ds Max 2017, low-poly model. I have it in  3D Studio, FBX and OBJ formats (I have sought tutorials for how to do this, but what I've found so far is thin).
  • Enable users to navigate through the model on a website without a plug-in (I know WebGL offers this)
  •  Enable users to select a surface and apply a data value to it--either manually or automatically drawn from a database
  • Be able to add an additional layer of imagery to the model that aggregates and visualizes the data that has been assigned to surfaces--this could be a 3D grid that surrounds the model and lights up with each added piece of data.  
So, can these things be done with WebGL?
 If so, how difficult will it be to do this?
Is there a no-code or low-code approach, or will I need a GL developer?

Thank you so very much for your input. Regards!    


igor choromanski

Aug 8, 2022, 3:45:25 PMAug 8
Hi Sterling,

Yes, Webgl is well suited for your needs. But, unless you're being modest about your current abilities, it would take you some time to put it all together.
Your best bet would be Threejs or Babylon. This appears like a popular way to learn the first of the two:
Low-code WebGL options do exist, but the ones I'm familiar with would not allow you to meet all the requirements of your project.


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Brandon Jones

Aug 8, 2022, 3:51:18 PMAug 8
Hi Sterling!

Given that one of your requirements is "Enable users to navigate through the model on a website without a plug-in" I think we can confidently say that WebGL is the right tech for you, given that nothing else has shipped in browsers yet that enables that.

Fortunately, that doesn't mean you'll have to work with the WebGL API directly, which can be intimidating for newcomers. There's lots of great libraries out there that make working with 3D content on the web far easier. Some recommendations:

Three.js - One of the most popular libraries, which means lots of available samples, complimentary code, and active users that can help with questions.
Babylon.js - From Microsoft, similar to Three.js but with its own strengths. Good documentation, built with Typescript if that appeals to you.
A-Frame - Built on top of Three.js, but with a focus on declarative scene definitions. Great for developers that don't want to use a ton of JavaScript.
PlayCanvas - Probably the most Unity-like engine on the web so far. Has a nice visual editor. Free for public projects.
<model-viewer> - About as simple to use as it gets (one tag), but may or may not be feature full enough for your needs. Does support annotations, which it sounds like you want.

I'd look around all of the above and try to find something that looks similar to what you need and try copying it and making modifications from there! Best of luck!



Sterling Wright

Aug 8, 2022, 10:09:06 PMAug 8
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Hello Igor and Brandon!  Thank you so much for your responses.

These options sound like they may be do-able, some more than others.  But, Igor, I am not being modest about my coding abilities! Unfortunately.
So, allow me to ask this, if I may:  How long would it take a WebGL developer to do what I describe, and what would a range of project cost for such an assignment be?

Alternative to importing a OBJ model, could what I am describing also be done with Google Maps Terrain View of a neighborhood? Google Maps is, I think, a WebGL based app, yes?  The "annotations" I would need to add would  be values--let's say values 1-10. 

As a simple example: a user clicks on the wall of a building and assigns it value 1; then clicks on another surface and assigns it value 7.
The grid imagery surrounding the "model" or Google location map  would add those values together to increase in brightness according to the amount of values assigned.

Is this something I could hire someone to do? 

Thank you for taking a moment to consider and respond.  I appreciate it very much!

Adrian Piccioli

Aug 9, 2022, 10:49:25 AMAug 9
Hi Sterling,

Not sure why you consider them as different realms, but Unity can deploy WebGL-based  browser apps afaik

My guess is it ranslates IL to webassembly.


Aug 25, 2022, 2:56:31 PMAug 25
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Hello Adrian and others!

Adrian, I appreciate your response on Aug 9. I apologize for my tardy reply; there was a disturbance in the force.

My need for this project is to render my demo on a webpage without requiring the Unity plug-in.

I have made some design changes to my initial concept.

Rather than importing a 3D model,  I am now investigating whether I can ascribe a data set to a portion of a google maps 3D-rendered neighborhood and be able to move through that 3D space and click on objects to see corresponding data and/or add data.  Is it correct that Google Maps 3d is WebGL-based?

I am seeking to hire a GL developer who could do this work and wish to learn if anyone is interested and what that might cost?

Thank you for each of your, and anyone new's, attention.

Best regards,
Sterling Wright
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