Some open-source projects start with a simple question and a little curiosity. Paper Planes, an Android app that augments existing web technology with native Android Nougat features, is no exception.
Active Theory and a team from Android worked together on an experiment that turned into an interactive app that allows users to catch and throw paper planes with people around the world. The team first asked themselves, “What if you could throw a paper plane from one screen to another?” and with the power of the web, they were able to extend web technology with Android.
This experiment was first featured at this year’s Google I/O. With Paper Planes, users create and fold their own plane while adding a stamp that is prefilled with their location. A throwing gesture launches the plane into a virtual world, and users visiting the desktop website can see the planes flying into the screen.
Each stamp on the plane reads like a passport, writes developer guest Active Theory in a blog post, and a 3D Earth highlights the flight path and distance traveled.
Users can make their own planes and gesture with their phone in different ways so they can catch a plane and throw it back in with the rest. Active Theory, with collaboration from the Android team, developed this app to work across devices, ranging from the 50-foot screen on stage at Google I/O to mobile devices.
WebGL is used to render the 3D elements, and the teams wrote custom GLSL shaders to light the Earth and “morph targets to animate the paper as the user pinches to open or close,” according to the blog. Users that throw a plane to have their message sent over web sockets to the back end, which is then relayed to desktop computers to visualize a plane taking off, wrote Active Theory.
The teams extended the web with native Android code, so the deep integration of Chromium within Android can make the view layer of the app and add deep integration within the operating system. The app has connected people all over the world, and the team wrote that extending the web with these capabilities can be an additional avenue to deliver high-quality experiences.
The source code for the Paper Planes app can be found on GitHub’s repository.
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