Google is working to add fully immersive browsing capability to Chrome, allowing users to browse any part of the web in VR, not just those sites that are specially built for VR.

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See Also: Google Shows HTC Vive Running at 90 FPS in Chrome with WebVR

Google has played an active role in helping to define and deploy ‘WebVR‘, a set of standard capabilities that allow for the creation of VR websites which can serve their content directly to VR headsets. But what about accessing the billions of websites already on the web? Today you’d have to take your headset on and off as you go from a WebVR site to a non-WebVR site. Google’s ultimate vision however is to let people stay in VR for all of their web browsing.

The latest builds of Google Chrome Beta and Google Chrome Dev on Android bring two important new features for making this a reality. Chrome Beta now contains a WebVR setting which enables enhanced VR device compatibility with VR websites built against WebVR standards. Chrome Dev (one extra step back in development from Beta) now contains a ‘VR Shell’ setting which Google’s Chromium Evangelist François Beaufort says “enable[s] a browser shell for VR” which “allows users to browse the web while using Cardboard or Daydream-ready viewers.” Both options are available in the browser’s Flags page, accessed by entering chrome://flags in the URL bar.

SEE ALSO
VR on the Open Web with A-Frame and WebVR

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The VR Shell doesn’t seem to be fully functional yet, but both options are working their way through Chrome’s various development channels with the goal of eventually landing in the stable release that goes wide to all users.

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See Also: Mozilla Launches A-Frame – VR-capable Websites Starting with One Line of Code

Google WebVR developer Josh Carpenter tells us what Chrome Beta’s new WebVR option means compared to the limited WebVR functionality already supported by most modern browser through existing standards.

“Today I can view a WebVR scene on an iOS [device], even if Mobile Safari doesn’t support WebVR API, thanks to a polyfill + device accelerometers. Which is awesome. The web’s got reach,” he explained. “What the WebVR API gives us on top of that is much richer ecosystem support, things like link traversal between WebVR experiences without dropping out of VR mode, and more.”

Samsung introduced a VR browser for their Gear VR headset last year which achieves similar functionality, but is not available to the wider Android ecosystem. As the stable version of Chrome on Android has been downloaded between 1 – 5 billion times, it stands to bring VR web browsing to a much larger group. Google is also in development of Chrome support for headsets like the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive on desktop.

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  • Harry Hol

    So this doesn’t work on desktop with Rift?

    • D.L

      There’s already support for WebVR on desktops in experimental builds of Chrome and Firefox nightlies. It works with the Rift and the Vive.

  • Ben,

    That’s pretty awesome technology. I’m curious how the general population will react to this. Some of us will be super intrigued by the VR technology, but some may shy away from it. I’m also curious how site owners will react and adapt.

    Thanks for the post,
    Dennis

  • DiGiCT Ltd

    This tech has some future, keep up the good work Google !

  • Whats the longest time folks can where these while gaming and not gaming?

  • To be fair, full web browsing in VR has been available for years as Media on Prim in Second Life or Opensim ….using the CTRLALTDEL viewer?

  • To be fair, full web browsing in VR has been available for years as Media on Prim in Second Life or Opensim ….using the CTRLALTDEL viewer?

  • Snorre Milde

    “Oh my god. It’s full of ads!”

    • rndusrnm479461

      That’s what AdAway (for Android) is for.

  • Full VR browsing doesn’t exist. Second Life isn’t the web. JanusVR isn’t Firefox or Chrome. WebVR sucks in general and has no DOM elements in it. Once DOM elements are displayed in WebGL or AFrame we will have something. Also, when Apple and Microsoft wake up and add VR functionality to the operating system. So far I have been waiting for this since 2014. I thought they would want to get ahead of the curve but I was wrong.

    • BrandonLive

      MS has some pretty rich platform support coming (currently limited to HoloLens but recently announced planned support for third-party VR devices).

    • xsg 3d web has a dom. check out the mini game sample in advance-software.com 3d site. the game access the dom, or as we say in 3d, scene graph to manipulate the content. scripting is c#. source to that example available if you’re interested.

  • My question is this: when in VR mode will it diplay the 2D website in a 3D space or ignore creating a space for the content to be in. I was imagining that the browser would display the 2D as a sort of wall and maybe automatically pulling DOM elements into a Z axis.

  • Ed

    Unless they bring some impressive ingenuity to the user interface I can’t see a VR supported browser being more useful than virtual desktop, in which you can use any browser as well as access everything else on your computer. It seems logical and inevitable that VR will be built into future operating system releases, at which point a VR browser will only be useful if it provides a unique, new and efficient way to browse in VR.

    • James F

      That’s most likely exactly what they’ll do, they’ll come up with an intuitive VR UI so that it’s easier to use in a virtual desktop.

  • another solution : http://infinity-online.net

    infinity introduces the xsg 3d web.

    XSG can be thought of as a 3d equivalent to HTML.

    artists can built using industry standard 3dsmax with support for other packages to follow.

    webdevs can use 3dsmax artist created content – custom or templates and can hack the source, generate on the fly as usual. runs from a standard web server.

    available now – late beta, it works. check it out.

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