February 11, 2013

‘Find Your Way to Oz’ Brings Google, Disney and Unit9 together with HTML5

It sounds like the recipe for a preposterous conceptual casserole, but recently, Google got together with Disney (NewsAlert) and Unit9 to launch a new Web-based experience geared primarily for the Chrome browser. Previous experiences revolved around things like Cirque du Soleil and the like, but this time it’s a little something special. Dubbed “Find Your Way to Oz,” the experience in question is built on HTML5, optimized for the Chrome browser, and themed to not only show off HTML5 capability but also promote the upcoming theatrical release of Oz: The Great and Powerful.

The “Find Your Way To Oz” experience starts users off in a Kansas circus, much like in the film itself. Users will then be put through a tornado, following which they will end up in the mythical Land of Oz Once inside, users will have access to a wide array of toys and the like, like a photo booth that syncs up with a webcam, or a music box that allows users to compose their own tunes with their mouse.

Such a series of impressive toys isn’t easy or simple to build, as the whole affair depends on a variety of HTML5 techniques like WebGL, a slice of WebRTC with its getUserMedia feature, and the Web Audio API for audio effects. Google (News Alert) even brought out a technical case study that examines some of the finer points of the Experiment’s details, like creating the effect of wind without resorting to a full-blown simulation of wind. Google didn’t have a physics engine, you see, so it had to resort to new and unusual methods to make people think there was wind involved without actually simulating wind. Users can even get a better look at what’s going on by adding ?debug=on to the URL, then bringing up a new menu with Ctrl-i to customize the experience even more.

The overall effect is one that’s surprisingly interactive as well as surprisingly powerful. Considering what all went into producing this effect is actually quite humbling, and only shows to underscore the sheer potential of HTML5 as a whole. This technology created pretty much an entire circus’ worth of toys and then threw in a navigable tornado. Tack that on to what else has been going on in the field of HTML5, and the whole picture starts to look like the view from a hot air balloon over just about anywhere—both wide and full of promise.

HTML5 has threatened to alter the mobile experience as we know it, bring back classic video games, and make communications fundamentally different. Those who doubt it need only look as far as Google’s newest Chrome Experiment, and it’s not going to take going all the way to Oz to make it clear.


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