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Project Looking Glass: An Expanding Universe on Your Desktop

Posted by hiheiss on June 29, 2005 at 10:31 PM PDT

I'm at TS-7992 where Project Looking Glass (LG3D), a Java
technology-based open source project that brings a richer user
experience to the desktop through 3D windowing and visualization
capabilities, is being presented to an audience of, I guesstimate,
800 people. LG3D sprang from the very creative heart and mind of
Sun's Hideya Kawahara. Recognizing that desktops had not
changed substantially in 20 years, he set out to make them more
aesthetically appealing and powerful. Operating on the assumption
that the next user interfaces would be 3D, he initiated a side project
that would consume at least two hours a day of his spare time, plus
most of his weekends and holidays for more than a year before
taking hold at Sun. To put it mildly, it has taken hold. It's the most
popular "app" on ( with 26,600
source code downloads, plus 600 members (and counting) since
the 2004 JavaOne Conference where it was open sourced.

So what's the latest? Hideya and Paul Byrne, LG3D project
owners, demo'ed a range of 3D images, a music player, scenes in
which you could alter the backgrounds with a click, "Alice" an
award winning 3D media player ( that is
the first to utilize the 3D capacity of Looking Glass, and more.

CosmoSchedulerD, a three-dimensional application running on
LG3D software, created by developers at the Kyushu Institute of
Technology in Japan, won a Duke's Choice Award
( As a
schedule book, it recreates outer space, with your personal solar
system built in by arranging the planets according to their dates.
The front of the orbit represents the current time, while the size of
the planet symbolizes an appointment's importance, which makes
it hard to forget an event even a few light years from now.
CosmoSchedulerD contains features that ordinary schedule
notebooks don't have, such as automatic scheduling, networking,
and a workspace manager. Imaginative desktops seem to inspire
even more imaginative apps to be built on them.

(I can't escape the feeling that talking about innovations on a
gorgeous 3D desktop is like a donkey carrying a load of books.
Have to shake it off. By all means go check out "Philco" running
LG3D, the mock-up on the cell phone, and LG3D on a 3D LCD
display, and all the rest on the pavilion floor!)

Hideya and Paul gave a brief summary of how to create a
"deep" 3D environment. It's built on Java 3D with specialized
classes that include a component model, animation system and
SceneManager interaction. The LG3D 0.7 release has just arrived.
There is now WebStart support (
for running the "developers" mode of Looking Glass. It operates in
application mode so LG3D can run on top of a user's existing
desktop. Java 3D 1.4 now enables performance improvements like
shader support. It has Open Solaris support.

In the pipeline is tool integration, a visualization library, and
"SwingNode" support. There will be greater inclusion of identity
and collaboration features and a more task-oriented UI.

To run it:

To get it: http//

To learn more about LG3D: