WebVR is gaining significant momentum; last month the biggest players in the browse space came together to discuss the future of VR on the web at the W3C Workshop on Web & Virtual Reality. There, Google said that the company soon plans to ship a public version of Chrome on Android with support for WebVR 1.1.
WebVR is an evolving foundation for delivering virtual reality directly from the web. It’s slowly being pulled into a coherent set of guidelines, features, and best practices to allow compatibility of virtual reality web content across a daunting array of web browser and VR systems, each with varying capabilities.
Just a few weeks ago, major forces collaborating on the WebVR Spec gathered in San Jose, CA for the W3C Workshop on Web & Virtual Reality, a two-day conference where the likes of Mozilla, Google, Samsung, Microsoft, Oculus, The Khronos Group, and many more hashed out the latest developments and directions for the WebVR ecosystem.
It was there that Megan Lindsay, WebVR Product Manager at Google, announced that the company is working toward a public release of Chrome on Android that supports the latest WebVR 1.1 Spec.
Lindsay said that the company plans to launch a beta in December with a stable release planned for January. WebVR in the “stable” release means that it’ll make its way into the same Chrome browser app that everyone on Android sees in the Google Play store. Lindsay says that the company is targeting this release initially for Daydream, so it isn’t clear yet if the update will immediately add WebVR capability to all compatible phones, or if it will be restricted to Google’s Pixel phone (the first to be ‘Daydream ready’) and Daydream View headset. Once it does become available for all, it will mean WebVR capability for a huge swath of people (Chrome on Android has been downloaded between 1 and 5 billion times…).
That means that the browser will be compatible with WebVR content that’s built to the WebVR 1.1 Spec, allowing users to pop their phone into a Cardboard or Daydream headset to experience and jump between VR web content straight through Chrome, without the need to download individual apps. However, this initial release will fall under the ‘Origin Trials Framework‘, meaning that websites wanting to make WebVR 1.1 experiences for users will need to apply for (free) access; this is to provide a safe feedback period while the WebVR Spec continues to evolve, the Lindsay says.
Looking further out, Lindsay says that work is underway for WebVR in Chrome for Windows (supporting the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive), and will see a limited public release in early 2017, with a full rollout presumably later down the line.
She also noted that the company is continuing work on the Chrome ‘VR Shell’ that will allow 2D websites not built for WebVR to be browsed in VR. That’s planned for the first half of 2017 on Chrome for Android, and later in 2017 for the desktop browser.
WebVR support of varying levels has been in development versions of Mozilla and Chrome for some time now, but those have yet to make their way to a public release as the WebVR Spec continues to be honed. Most recently, Microsoft announced their support for WebVR in the Edge browser; Opera and Apple’s Safari are notable holdouts, having not yet said if they plan to support the spec (though employees from both were registered to attend last month’s meeting).