Overkill Options: A-Frame, Three.js and D3.js

After getting input controls sorted out on my AS7341 interface project, it’s time for the fun part: visualizing the output! Over the past few years of reading about web technologies online, I’ve collected a list of things I wanted to play with. My AS7341 project is not the right fit for these tools, so this list awaits a project with the right fit.

At this point I’ve taken most of Codecademy’s current roster of courses under their HTML/CSS umbrella. One of the exceptions is “Learn A-Frame (VR)“. I’m intrigued by the possibilities of VR but putting that in a browser definitely feels like something ahead of its time. “VR in a browser” has been ahead of its time since 1997’s VRML, and people have kept working to make it happen ever since. A brief look at A-Frame documentation made my head spin: I need to get more proficient with web technologies and have a suitable project before I dive in.

If I have a project idea that doesn’t involve full-blown VR immersion (AS7341 project does not) but could use 3D graphics capability (still does not) I can still access 3D graphics hardware from the browser via WebGL. Which by now is widely supported across browsers. In the likely case working directly with WebGL API is too nuts-and-bolts for my taste, there are multiple frameworks that help take care of low-level details. One of them is Three.js, which was the foundation for a lot of cool-looking work. In fact, A-Frame is built on top of Three.js. I’ve dipped my toes in Three.js when I used it to build my RGB332 color picker.

Dropping a dimension to land of 2D, several projects I’ve admired were built using D3.js. This framework for building “Data-Driven Documents” seems like a great way to interactively explore and drill into sets of data. On a similar front, I’ve also learned of Tableau which is commercial software covering many scenarios for data visualization and exploration. I find D3.js more interesting for two reasons. First, I like the idea of building a custom-tailored solution. And second, Tableau was acquired by Salesforce in 2019. Historically speaking, acquisitions don’t end well for hobbyists on a limited budget.

All of the above frameworks are overkill for what I need right now for an AS7341 project: there are only a maximum of 11 different sensor channels. (Spectral F1-F8 + Clear + Near IR + Flicker.) And I’m focusing on just the color spectra F1-F8. A simple bar chart of eight bars would suffice here, so I went looking for something simpler and found Chart.js.

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