The Null Device


Some increasingly impressive things are being done with modern web browsers these days, taking advantage of new features in HTML5. A guy named Ben Joffe has developed a number of demos, including a full-featured 3D function plotter (using the canvas element) and a toroidal Tetris game. Another developer, going only by the name "Mr. doob", has developed some nifty 2D physics demos, including Ball Pool and Google Gravity. (Google, of course, entered the fray recently with their pure HTML5 implementation of Pac-Man.) Meanwhile, Apple, who are fighting their own (quite laudable, IMHO) battle against the dominance of Flash, have their own showcase of HTML5's capabilities, though it's coded to refuse to run on non-Safari browsers.

Chrome or Safari are recommended for the above demos; Firefox is still lagging behind in speed, though that's likely to improve in the near future. Firefox also has a new, experimental, API for manipulating audio data in JavaScript. (Apparently people are going to be doing FFTs in JavaScript in the future, which presumably won't make your browsing experience any faster.) It requires custom developer builds of Firefox (i.e., it's only for the hardcore at the moment), but people are already starting to experiment with it. Potentially most impressive so far is a project to port the Pd graphic audio programming language to JavaScript and have it run entirely in a browser. Meanwhile, here are some more audio API dems, including ones combining the audio APIs with WebGL to present 3D landscapes which respond to the beat in music and and graphic equalizer, sampler and speech synthesiser written entirely in JavaScript. I wonder how long until someone writes an entirely HTML5-based Ableton Live-style sequencer.

Typography is also shaping up nicely under HTML5, with a standard embeddable font format agreed upon. Google have released a web font embedding API, and made available several free font libraries through their content distribution system. They look, well, like free fonts; for those wanting more (and willing to pay for it), other groups of type foundries are jumping on the bandwagon; has fonts from major foundries like Linotype, Monotype and ITC (at last, you can set your site in authentic Helvetica for people who aren't Mac owners), and über-cool Berlin-based outfit FontShop have joined the game as well (bringing the clean European stylings of the likes of FF DIN and FF Meta to the web). One notable omission, though, are 1990s grunge-typography hellraisers Emigre, who haven't yet made the leap.

Finally, here is an article on some of the things one can do with CSS3, from transformations (i.e., rotating entire elements, including text and layout) to keyframe animation, all done without a single line of JavaScript.

css html html5 tech typography web 4

The latest design innovation to improve safety: equipment that emits an unpleasant smell when damaged, strongly encouraging the user to replace it. The first test case of the technology is in bicycle helmets, though the researchers have plans for using it in other devices such as pressure hoses:

Researchers at Germany's Fraunhofer Institute have developed a manufacturing process that injects microcapsules containing malodorous oils into the helmet itself, causing it to stink when damaged -- alerting you that it's time to replace it (and making it difficult to try and make do with a less than safe one, at that).
The developers of the product have yet to decide on a suitable odour to use.

cycling design tech 0