Strong glTF Ecosystem Momentum at SIGGRAPH 2017

Following the successful release of glTF 2.0, Khronos’ 3D asset transmission format continues to gain strong industry momentum, including support from Microsoft and Google. Today, Khronos has revealed that Google has released a new draft extension to use Draco geometry compression to make glTF files significantly more compact, that the Blender Exporter for glTF 2.0 is now complete and in beta, as well as Microsoft continuing to use glTF 2.0 to bring 3D capabilities to Paint 3D and Microsoft Office.

So – what is glTF? And why is it gaining so much adoption throughout the industry?

glTF was created to fill a gap into the 3D ecosystem. Although there are many 3D file formats in use throughout the industry, before glTF there were none that were specifically designed to enable the efficient encapsulation and transmission of complete 3D scenes and assets. This meant that many innovative opportunities for 3D applications and services were not being enabled.

The Market Need and Evolution of glTF

The Market Need and Evolution of glTF

glTF 1.0 was designed to transmit 3D assets to WebGL applications – which by their very nature need to receive all geometry, materials and animation information over the Internet – making compact file sizes vital to a speedy end-user experience. But then the idea of glTF caught on - and many other types of applications and engines also wanted to efficiently use and share sophisticated 3D data – and so glTF 2.0 was born.

GLSL shaders were used in glTF 1.0 to describe materials, which were easy for WebGL to execute, but alien to other API such as Microsoft’s Direct3D and Apple’s Metal. So, glTF 2.0 has moved to a much more portable and sophisticated way to describe materials – PBR or Physically Based Rendering. With PBR, materials are specified using simple parameters to a renderer to control physical attributes such as the amount of glossiness/specular reflectance or roughness/metallic-ness. The PBR system in glTF 2.0 is simple enough to be implemented on every platform but provides sophisticated results - that can be accelerated on any 3D API.

Structure of a glTF File including textures containing PBR parameters

Structure of a glTF File including textures containing PBR parameters

A file format such as glTF becomes increasingly useful to the industry as the ecosystem of tools, translators and applications gains critical mass - so that more developers invest in the format, for the good of everyone. glTF 2.0 has definitely reached this level of critical mass, and is being used in an increasingly diverse array of applications and engines.

The glTF Ecosystem showing the rapid transition to glTF 2.0

The glTF Ecosystem showing the rapid transition to glTF 2.0

Some of the most recent ecosystem highlights for glTF 2.0 include:

  • The open-source, native glTF 2.0 exporter from the Blender authoring tool is now in Beta!
  • Sketchfab now has 100,000+ of glTF 2.0 models available for download
  • Key WebGL engines, such as three.js, babylon.js and Cesium now have glTF 2.0 import
  • Microsoft is about to use glTF 2.0 to bring 3D to Microsoft Office! glTF 2.0 is already supported by the new Paint 3D creative program
  • And last, but not least, the Google Draco team, that has developed a high-performance, open-source library for compressing and decompressing 3D geometric meshes, has announced that they now have a glTF extension ready for review!
The upcoming Draco Extension for glTF will significantly reduce 3D file sizes

The upcoming Draco Extension for glTF will significantly reduce 3D file sizes

So – glTF 2.0 is here! If you are developer of tools, engines or applications that need easy, fast access to sophisticated 3D assets please consider using glTF, help Khronos develop the standard by contributing on the glTF GitHub site – and consider joining Khronos if you want to be directly involved in the glTF working group – you will be most welcome. Exciting times - and the glTF story is just starting!

Come see and hear more at the Khronos glTF BOF at SIGGRAPH 2007 on Wednesday 2nd August at 11AM – more details online.

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