Google has launched an ambitious Chrome experiment today, in partnership with The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. It’s an interactive updated version of those great hand-drawn maps Tolkien included in his print edition of the works upon which these movies are based, that provides a guided tour of Middle-earth and the people, elves, trolls, wizards and other beasts that populate it.
Accompanied by soothing, presumably Elvish music, the narrated feature allows you to zoom into a 3D map of Middle-earth from a prospective somewhere just above the cloud line, to a current total of three locations (with more promised to follow). Once zoomed in, you can learn more about the place, why it’s important, and who lives there. There’s also a 3D exploreable render of each location, which is all done in CSS3 and WebGL – and it’s designed to work on Chrome on Android, too, thanks to those technologies. If you’re interested in the nerdier side, there’s full post on how it was built here.
Admittedly this is tech demo, and a promotional piece of marketing for The Hobbit sequel that’s coming out in December, but it’s also a pretty cool use of modern web technologies and a proof of just how powerful the browser can be, especially on mobile. And really any excuse for additional Tolkien geekery has me on board.