In context: Web technology is acquiring new, native-class 3D rendering capabilities faster than ever. Google is working on its next-generation engine, while Microsoft keeps improving a project born out of a couple of developers' free time.

Microsoft announced the release of Babylon.js 6.0, the new version of its real-time 3D engine for displaying 3D graphics in an HTML5-compatible web browser. Babylon.js 6.0 greatly improves the engine's capabilities and performance, giving web developers a chance to exploit a leading technology for physics-based graphics without requiring a supercomputer to render more than 15 fps on the screen.

Babylon.js was created by Microsoft developers David Catuhe and David Rousset as a free side-project, and it was initially released by the Redmond corporation in 2013 under a "shared source license" (Microsoft Public License). The latest version of the engine is available under a more traditional Apache License (2.0), though, and more than 190 contributors and some commercial companies (like Ubisoft) are now working on it.

Babylon.js source code is based on TypeScript (a subset of the JavaScript language) and it gets compiled into a JavaScript-compatible version. The engine and the web applications written on it are natively interpreted in a web browser capable of running HTML5 code and WebGL applets for 3D rendering. Compared to Microsoft's approach, Google has decided to avoid the WebGL route with its own next-generation 3D API named WebGPU.

The main improvement brought to Babylon.js 6.0 is support for the Havok physics engine. Havok was created in 1998 to provide correct physics rendering in AAA game development, Microsoft highlighted, and it has now been used in more than 600 products.

By using a "special new WASM plugin" together with a completely overhauled Physics API, Babylon.js can now provide a more realistic model rendering and up to 20x faster performance. The new Physics API is easier to use, Microsoft said, despite offering more power, more control and more features.

Babylon.js 6.0 also includes new "Performance Priority Modes," which according to Redmond can produce up to "50x faster rendering and performance." Developers can now choose between three different rendering modes, following a more traditional approach (Backwards Compatibility Mode), choosing a middle ground (Intermediate Mode) or going all-in with a more extreme "performance path" with the Aggressive Mode. Developers can already try the new Babylon capabilities with an ad-hoc code "playground" available here.