Google says it’s now time to marry two computing realms: the web and virtual reality.
Its latest version of the Chrome browser includes a technology called WebVR, which lets programmers create websites that present the computer-generated 3D worlds of virtual reality. If you’re into VR, you might appreciate the promise WebVR holds for expanding what you can do with a device like a Google Daydream View or a Facebook Oculus Rift VR headset.
That’s because, in principle at least, WebVR makes it easier for developers to create a single VR experience that’ll work across many VR headsets instead of having to create a separate version for each device. It’s an extension of how a single website can span your laptop, Android phone or iPad tablet.
WebVR makes it “as easy to step inside Air Force One as it is to access your favorite web page,” Megan Lindsay, a product manager on Google’s Chrome team, said in a blog post.
WebVR without anything to look at isn’t any fun, so here are some sites Google promoted for the technology: Bear 71, an interactive nature documentary; Matterport, a library of more than 300,000 celebrity homes and other sites; Within, a collection of VR movies; WebVR Lab, a collection of interactive VR worlds, and Sketchfab, an assortment of VR scenes.
Google developed WebVR along with Firefox maker Mozilla, Facebook’s Oculus team, and other partners. It’s early days though. Microsoft is working on WebVR support for its new Edge browser and HoloLens eyewear, but support is still spotty among makers of VR headsets like HTC’s Vive and Samsung’s Gear VR.
So far, Mozilla has enabled WebVR only in its nightly and developer versions of Firefox aimed at web programmers and the adventurous. But it plans to add WebVR in the mainstream version of its browser this summer, including support for Oculus Rift and HTC Vive.
Chrome supports Google’s Daydream View headset, which like Gear VR uses a phone to track head motion and display imagery for each eye. But it’ll be months before WebVR and Chrome work with the company’s cruder Google Cardboard cousin.
Virtual reality 101: CNET tells you everything you need to know about what VR is and how it’ll affect your life.
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