Journey Through The Hobbit’s Middle Earth with Google’s Latest Interactive Chrome Experiment

Google Chrome’s latest interactive experiment is an homage to Peter Jackson’s  fictional universe, Middle Earth. It’s a large and sprawling map from the Hobbit with locations like Dol Guldur, Rivendell, and the Trollshaw forest. To explore these places from a first person, perspective, grab your phone, tablet, or computer and head over here.

Like other Chrome experiments, this interactive map was made to accommodate all devices, meaning a lot of technical challenges for the HTML5 team:

Our overall experience from this project is that WebGL on mobile works really well, especially on newer, high-end devices. When it comes to performance it seems like polygon count and texture size mostly affect download and initialization times and that materials, shaders and the size of the WebGL canvas are the most important parts to optimise for mobile performance. However, it’s the sum of the parts that affects the performance so everything you can do to optimise counts.

Targeting mobile devices also means that you have to get used to thinking about touch interactions and that it’s not only about the pixel size — it’s the physical size of the screen as well. In some cases we had to move the 3D camera closer to actually see what was going on.


The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug hits theaters on December 13th, 2013.