A first introduction to building 3D applications with JavaScript or TypeScript using Babylon.js

Published Nov 12 2020 07:15 AM 4,654 Views
Microsoft

TLDR; JavaScript is an exceedingly popular language and, in many places, not just the browser. It's also used to develop backend services, work with IoT and much more. This article shows how you can use it in yet another interesting area namely to develop 3d applications using JavaScript or TypeScript.

 

References

There are so many great to learn more about Babylon.js it's features and how to build apps with it.

The Babylon.js homepage is a great place to start. It gives you a great overview of Babylon's features and also showcases some really impressive demos.

 

Babylon.js 4.2 has just been released and is packed with new features and tools

This doc describes the 4.2 release and most of it's new and exciting features.

 

If you're already into Babylon.js or have worked with 3D before, this should really interest you.

Here you can edit code samples and see it being rendered in the browser, no set up required. There's also lessons that teaches you Babylon.js, feature by feature.

 

Take certification in JavaScript

 

Node.js path, learn JavaScript on the backend

 

As soon as you learn 3D you can start applying that and add Augmented Reality (a layer on top of reality) to your apps

 

What is Babylon.js

Babylon.js is a 3D engine that helps you build games and other kinds of 3D visualizations. You can use JavaScript or TypeScript to do so.

According to the creators, Babylon.js is a:

powerful, beautiful, simple, and open game and rendering engine packed into a friendly JavaScript framework

That sure promises a lot but Babylon.js really delivers on its raw set of features and how simple it is to learn.

 

How can I learn

I don't know anything about 3d applications or 3d in general, can you help me?

Yes, Babylon.js has a playground functionality, found at:

https://playground.babylonjs.com/

The playground consists of a two-part window where the left side displays code and the right side the result. You can then interact with the code and see the result on the right side. Here's a picture of what it looks like:

Chris_Noring_0-1605118903532.png

 

Looks exciting, can't wait to try that :)

Wait, there's more, much more in fact. There's a ton of lessons that lets you learn Babylon.js's features at your own pace:

Chris_Noring_1-1605118903536.jpeg

 

Sweet, I might have to call in sick just to play with that :)

Yea, why not make it your career?

Hmm, what game development?

There's all sorts of industries looking for people with 3d visualization skills.

Really who?

Well, more and more industries out there want to visualize their data in a new and interesting way, it could be used to display furniture in your future home or what's in a warehouse and so on.

Hmm, that's good to know, I mostly saw the game industry in front of me.

Games are cool but there's more to it than that.

For sure.

 

A brief look at the new Babylon 4.2 release

Building a visualization or a game in 3D is not just about writing a little code and you are done with it. It usually takes a little more than that. You usually need a few tools to work efficiently. Let's go through some tools and concepts that are part of the 4.2 release of Babylon.js and see how they help you develop an app.

Sprites and the Sprite editor

Sprites are simple 2D objects that have textures, graphical images, on them. Even if you are building something in 3D you need a way to display things made in 2D. Usually you work with a sprite map, which packs all sprites you aim to use in one image. Packing everything into one image saves a lot of space rather than having to deal with a ton of images.

Why would there be a ton of images?

Well, imagine you have a character that's being animated as it moves or does something in your app, every single movement is an image. Say also that you have a ton of different characters in your app. It easily builds app and let's not forget you want to run an app in a browser.

Ok ok, I get it, sprite maps are good.

To manage sprites in an efficient way, you need some kind of tool where you can visualize what a sprite looks like and also be able to create new sprites. You are in luck, the new sprite editor does just that. Have a read about it here:

Chris_Noring_2-1605118903538.jpeg

 

Sprite playground

Sprite docs

Particles

Particles consist of hundreds, even thousands of small sprites that when displays causes a fuzzy effect. Depending on the sprites used, this effect can look anything like a torch, a galaxy or maybe the light from a spaceship engine. Particles are something you definitely want to use in your app. Babylon.js 4.2 comes with a particle editor which makes creating and editing particles and particle effects real easy. Read more about it here:

Particle editor playground

Particle editor docs

Skeletons and the new Skeleton viewer

Characters that have arms and legs in a 3d world usually have a skeleton that can move in many ways to simulate real life movement. Being able to control what that movement feels like is key to creating app with realistically moving characters.

Skeleton viewer playground

Skeleton viewer docs

Textures and the texture editor

A texture adds a material to your object so wooden create looks wooden or a tree looks like an actual tree with barks and leaves and so on. The inspector tool helps you visualize the texture and helps you quickly find any texture problems.

Texture inspector playground

Tecture inspector docs

Babylon React Native

If you already know React this should interest you. Babylon React Native means you can build apps for mobile phones while using React Native.

Babylon React Native

 

Summary

In summary, Babylon.js is a great choice if you are currently using JavaScript or TypeScript and want to either visualize something in 3D or build a game. It's also a really fun way to learn programming. Also the Babylon.js 4.2 is full of existing new features and tools you will need to be efficient building apps with it.

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