*Short version of the [Shader Engine Proposal|http://wiki.gephi.org/index.php/Google_Summer_Of_Code_2010#Shader_Engine]:*
The aim is to create a basic 3D engine using suggested technologies and use it for drawing as many nodes and edges as possible. Moreover the engine should guarantee the possibility to add an interaction layer to develop the network exploration.
Existing Gephi 3D engine is intended to be used with as much hardware as possible and thus doesn’t profit from GPU so much. The particularity of a network visualization 3D engine is the need to draw a huge amount of very basic shapes (sphere or cube for nodes and lines for edges). For a traditional "direct" engine, drawing millions of objects, even if it is the same object costs millions of loop iterations and CPU-to-GPU transfers. When using shaders, graphics are directly processed by the GPU and therefore speed-up rendering.
We suggest this draft roadmap:
Get started with loading and executing vertex and fragment shaders within a JOGL routine in a sample application.
Code impostors for nodes, work on sphere appearance with ambient occlusion technique. The molecular visualization can be a great source of inspiration. Code basic geometry and camera positioning to allow displacement and zoom.
Build the architecture to manage node updates (position update, select, color, size). Try to draw edges with GPU.
Propose nice post-processing effects. Try to make a glow effect around spheres.
Instructions to apply here