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Saturday, 30 August 2014

Famo.us - A Gaming Engine For 3D Interfaces

Famo.us, launching today at TechCrunch Disrupt in San Francisco and brought to you by the same guy who founded PowerSet (Steve Newcomb), lets developers write fully 3D apps without having to depend on complex programming tricks or compiled apps. It’s a lot like the interfaces you see in Iron Manor Minority Report, and it works on nearly any platform, including desktops, Android, and iOS.


In essence, Famo.us is a JavaScript game engine that renders applications with high performance in both native and browser environments. The Famo.us engine does all the heavy lifting — you know, the stuff browsers are horrible at — and bypasses the operating environment to speak directly with the graphics hardware.




The system works by communicating directly with the GPU, which allows for speedy, high performance. Developers can use pre-designed templates, or develop their own, for various interfaces and simply feed their images or data into the models. The math involved with developing a 3D virtual world — at least one that performs well and follows the laws of physics — is incredibly dense, so you’d naturally assume that the coding language is foreign to most.



But no. Developers can code for Famo.us in JavaScript. It’s as simple as that. Because the technology speaks directly to the GPU, it works on any device: iOS, Android, web, gaming consoles, and anything else with a GPU.

The idea is that Famo.us will let developers use its engine to create 3D templates, but there’s one condition. The templates have to be open-source, so that everyone can build off of them and enjoy them. Eventually, when enough developers have made enough templates (and thus, apps) for Famo.us, the company will stitch them all together to create a 3D world.


Thus the name Famo.us. The company wants to let developers build something that’s never been seen before, and eventually, become famous.

So imagine your Pinterest, Instagram, and Facebook living in a 3D gesture-based interface. Now take it a step further. Imagine your email with a more prominently placed priority inbox, and less important messages in the background. And it can go even further than that, all the way down to the simplest of the apps: your file manager.


The company has so far raised a total of $1,100,000, with hopes to raise another round very soon. They plan to first offer the technology in a private beta to JavaScript developers, and further down the road, they’ll create tools for designers and eventually general users to create their own 3D worlds.

Q & A:

Judges: Cyan Banister (Zivity), Kevin Rose (Google Ventures), Scott Weiss (Andreessen Horowitz), Greg Yaitanes (Emmy Award-winning director and angel investor)

GY: So, it makes stuff you build on the web browser in 3D?

Famo.us: It works in 2D mode or 3D mode as well. It just takes a flip of a switch.

GY: So those could be my photos in your interface?

Famo.us: We want to build templates, so that JavaScript engineers can make their own templates, too. And they can either sell them if it’s for commercial use or have them for free if it’s personal. The more templates people create, the more that our Internet will transition to 3D.

GY: In visual effects and 3D modeling, I see that a lot, so you’re just saying you’ve brought that to the browser.

Famo.us: We want to empower JavaScript developers. So we’ve made it possible for them to compete with native apps in performance, and 3D is only the natural evolution of the Internet.

CB: What’s the most exciting app developers are creating for it?

Famo.us: I see anything visual in there. Something like Pinterest, Instagram, anything visual. I’m not the guy that is going to make the killer app. I’m an infrastructure guy.

We’re just offering an engine that’s capable of rendering this type of performance in the browser, in an app, on iOS, Android, or a game console.

KR: I’m still trying to understand what’s the big thing? I’ve seen my Apple TV do that.

Famo.us: That’s actually pre-rendered, what you see on Apple TV. We’re giving a tool to do the same thing in an interactive app. JavaScript devs are trying to build web apps that are performant. We’ve solved the performance problems with web apps for them.

SW: So is it all open sourced?

Famo.us: That’s the rule. The engine is closed, so we don’t share that with developers. But they have complete access to the tools, and any template they make must be open source as well, so that everyone can enjoy and explore 3D.

SW: It felt a little Swiss Army Knife to me. Everything you said seems possible. Do you have a main focus or a main thrust? Looks like it’s searching for a use case.

Famo.us: The first case is JavaScript engineers. They can use Famo.us to see if it solves their performance issues. Then they can explore 3D from there with their existing apps.

SW: Is there any area you’re going to attack?


Famo.us: We’re coming at people trying to compete with native through HTML5. They now have another weapon in their arsenal to compete on the web with highly performant apps.



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