Introduction to 3D Graphics

Three-dimensional graphics started with the display of data on hardcopy plotters and CRT screens soon after the introduction of computers themselves. It has grown to include the creation, storage, and manipulation of models and images of objects. These models come from a diverse and expanding set of fields, and include physical, mathematical, engineering, architectural, and even conceptual structures, natural phenomena, and so on.

Until the early 1980s, 3D graphics was used in specialized fields because the hardware was expensive and there were few graphics-based application programs that were easy to use and cost-effective. Since personal computers have become popular, 3D graphics is widely used for various applications, such as user interfaces and games. Today, almost all interactive programs, even those for manipulating text (e.g., word processors) and numerical data (e.g., spreadsheet programs), use graphics extensively in the user interface and for visualizing and manipulating the application-specific objects. So 3D graphics is no longer a rarity and is indispensable for visualizing objects in areas as diverse as education, science, engineering, medicine, commerce, military, advertising, and entertainment.

Fundamentally, 3D graphics simulates the physical phenomena that occur in the real world – especially dynamic mechanical and lighting effects – on 2D display devices. Thus the role of the 3D graphics pipeline is to project 3D objects on to a ...

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