by Charles Ying

The PlayStation Web App

September 27th, 2011

This is the new PlayStation Video Unlimited service. This PlayStation app runs at a full 60 frames per second (when you see it on a PS3), has tons of 3D graphics effects, full-speed 1080p video playback, and a fluid, hardware accelerated, animated user experience. What you may not know is that this is a web app.

A Web App? On A PlayStation?

The Video Unlimited service is a JavaScript application with a carefully designed runtime platform and very lightweight APIs to access hardware accelerated 3D graphics and shader effects, video playback engine, and other aspects of the PS3 hardware.

Two years ago, I helped start this project at Sony. In six weeks, our team took a working Flash UI prototype and recreated it on a PS3, complete with an early version of the platform, now internally called Trilithium. Alex Bustin, the same UI developer who built the original UI prototype, also wrote the Trilithium port.

The release of Video Unlimited was delayed until now, but Trilithium was used to build another of Sony’s partner’s apps, Hulu Plus for PS3. (See video at the end of this post).

The Trilithium Platform

Trilithium’s strength comes from taking full advantage of the PS3 hardware and existing well-optimized frameworks to do everything from graphics to video playback, leaving the decisions about the high level application to a very flexible JavaScript core API.

We built Trilithium for several reasons:

  • Make good use of the complex 8-core + GPU PS3 hardware without killing ourselves.
  • Give this power to our UX developers and designers.
  • Let partners easily build their own PS3 apps with little knowledge of PS3 architecture.
  • Rapidly develop with a flexible environment.

True, there’s no hyperlinking and Trilithium isn’t open (for now).

But Video Unlimited, Hulu Plus, and future Trilithium apps do show what’s possible when you bring the best parts of web and native technology together.

Hulu Plus for PS3

23 Responses to “The PlayStation Web App”

  1. Mark Kawakami Says:

    Fascinating! Are you using a particular browser engine/javascript engine as the basis for the runtime?

  2. jsd Says:

    The video looks great, but I’m confused as to what part of this is a web app. It looks like you have a highly customized javascript environment. Are you using HTML at all? Is it delivered over HTTP?

  3. Steven Says:

    Uses some web technologies, yes, but web app? I beg to differ.

  4. Ron Says:


    is Trilithium a JavaScript engine, or a version of flash for the PS3? You go from talking about Flash to Trilithium. I think it’s a JS API, but just want to double check. If it is, wow! If it’s Flash :(

  5. Charles Ying Says:

    @Ron, it is a JavaScript API, the initial UI prototype was in Flash.

  6. Scott R Says:

    Neat. But I was doing something similar via XBMC on the old XBox (the one before the XBox 360). Welcome to the year 2005.

  7. Jeff Edsell Says:

    This design is lovely. It strikes me that it would also work well on a touch-based platform.

    The text entry for search is very clever. I assume you can use a bluetooth keyboard as well?

    As a web designer/developer for many years, I find this really exciting. How things have changed: a few years ago, you’d mockup in HTML then build in Flash, not the other way around!

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  10. thomasd Says:

    So, if the PS3 is able to run this impressive “web” app… how come it’s so horribly bad at rendering regular web pages in the PlayStation browser??

  11. Viacavour Says:

    The UI is nice but the more interesting part is the Gracenote meta-data navigation. They can take the same framework to Music Unlimited or even Games Unlimited. Consumers can browse media via tags/keywords, lyrics, artists, developers, date/time, dialogue. They can use simple TV remote or voice recognition in different languages as input.

    The only missing element is social network integration. Not the irritating facebook notifications. But relevant reviews from critics, users and friends. Fortunately, user ratings is in. Looks and performs great so far.

    The next breakthrough should be DRM. Please allow consumers to copy and play their media on another device.

  12. Viacavour Says:

    Thomasd, the GameOS web browser is developed by NetFront using their proprietary layout engine. The latest NetFront browser is WebKit-based, possibly found in Vita. I sure hope Sony update or sell the browser on PS3.

    The PS3 NetFlix app is also a WebKit (HTML4) app. The defunct PS3 Linux runs all the open source web browsers too.

  13. Keith Says:

    Very nice! Why is the Netflix app so bad? The little animation it has is choppy, and navigation and text search is poor.

  14. Leon Says:

    I knew that webkit would be amazing if it was running on ps3.

    I just wish Sony would make it the default browser in game os, rather than the Internet Explorer 1.0 lookalike we have to put up with now.

  15. Lumen Says:

    This is looking awesome. I would love to see PlayStation Store like this(rumors about revamp) or PS3 OS. I saw similar Video Unlimited on new Sony Tablet and Xperia. Sony with SEN is making a new ecosystem for networked products?

  16. dERIC Says:


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  19. jeff_rigby Says:

    Very good and considering it was designed 2 years ago excellent.

    Is this javascript application using the same support framework in the PS3 that was disclosed Nov 2010 here: I.E. Cairo and Gstreamer?

    Shader support and Cairo? So why the 2 year delay? When will the disclosed in March 2011 browser be released? Sony going Gnome?

    I assume the wraps are coming off projects and this and many other projects are soon to be released.

    Answer what you can and thanks;


  20. Links for 100211. « Jeff Hamlett Says:

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  21. The Playstation Web App | jake.marttinen Says:

    […] Very cool, looking forward to an improved video/web experience on the PS3. Also ties into a lot of what our team is doing here at Arcestra: a WebGL app on the iPad that renders 3D walkthroughs of models for real estate agents to demo on the road. This entry was posted in tech by jemartti. Bookmark the permalink. […]

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  23. HTML5 Says:

    Can you please update Snow Stack so it will work in Firefox which now supports CSS 3D Transforms? Coding Snow Stack to work in Webkit only is contrary to the way the Web works.