Cooliris builds visual search for Chrome with next-generation web APIs

MAY 10, 2011

By Austin Shoemaker, CTO, Cooliris

This post is part of Who's at Google I/O, a series of guest blog posts written by developers who are appearing in the Developer Sandbox at Google I/O.

At Cooliris, we develop media applications targeting two broad categories – web applications that run in any standards-compliant web browser, and native applications that target specific platforms with tailored user experiences (e.g. iOS, Android, Windows, Mac OS X).

When we developed the Cooliris Extension for Google Chrome, we set out to create an efficient and visually stunning media browsing experience for the web. To deliver on this promise, we developed a native runtime specialized for multiple operating systems and browsers. While we were delighted with the result, the cost of developing native code for multiple platforms was significant. Ideally we could target a single cross-platform API that provided the performance, flexibility, and native feel of platform-specific code.

The new generation of high-performance graphics APIs supported by Google Chrome enables developers to create cross-platform web applications with a presentation layer that looks and feels more like a native application. Our latest Chrome extension, Image Search by Cooliris, leverages these APIs to provide an immersive visual search experience. The following technologies were key to making this product possible:
  1. WebGL: The ability to render our user interface with OpenGL ES enabled us to recreate our original 3D Wall experience without the use of plug-ins. Because it is a web standard, our extension is already available on both Windows and Mac versions of Google Chrome with no additional effort on our part. The new requestAnimationFrame API enables the app to render frames only when the display refreshes, significantly improving performance and power usage.
  2. Google Image Search API: The AJAX search API brings a rich source of relevant content into the wall. Users begin typing in the search box and instantly see results appear on the wall, allowing for effortless discovery and navigation.
Now that we have built the Image Search by Cooliris extension, we are using next-generation web APIs to push the envelope even further. LiveShare, our next-generation communication platform, is built to take advantage of these capabilities from the beginning – for example, the demo of our upcoming product built on WebGL already uses Chrome's file drag-and-drop API to optimize upload performance.

We have never been more excited about the potential of the web platform to deliver great applications – with HTML5, WebGL, and other emerging standards, it has become possible to create products that rival the performance and user experience of native software.

Come see Cooliris in the Developer Sandbox at Google I/O on May 10-11.

Austin Shoemaker is CTO and co-founder of Cooliris. Austin studied Computer Science at Stanford and leads product development for the Cooliris platform. Previously, Austin worked at Apple developing consumer applications.

Posted by Scott Knaster, Editor