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Mobile devices have evolved to a point where interactive 3D graphics is becoming feasible. The first standardized 3D programming interfaces for mobile devices - OpenGL ES for native C/C++ and Mobile 3D Graphics (M3G) for Java applications - are now available to hardware vendors and application developers. The interfaces complement rather than compete with each other and can share the same underlying rendering engine, whether implemented in hardware or software. Three-dimensional graphics on mobile devices is still about converting descriptions of geometry, material, and illumination into pixels shown on a raster display, using the same fundamental algorithms as elsewhere. However, mobile devices' limited capabilities must be reflected in the realizations of those algorithms, as well as in the overall graphics system design. In this article, we describe a design that attempts to take on that challenge, consisting of OpenGL ES, a low-level API, and M3G (also known as JSR-184), a high-level API for Java. We describe how the two interfaces relate to each other and existing graphics architectures on the desktop, and how they attempt to provide optimal features and performance across the whole gamut of different devices. OpenGL ES and M3G, as well as our presentation of them in this article, derive from a long tradition of graphics systems design.
Date of Publication: Nov.-Dec. 2005