Virtual reality and even augmented reality seem to have taken a backseat to other tech news of late but that may be partly due to the growing maturity of the technologies. In other words, they’re no longer as groundbreaking or as odd as they were at the start. That said, VR and especially AR are still pretty much out of reach of the majority of users and even developers, which is why Google is heavily pushing for the wide adoption of WebXR standards that are coming to Chrome starting with version 79 beta.
Browsers have become powerful pieces of software, powerful enough to run, not just stream, 3D graphics and games. Mobile web browsers are even more powerful because of their ability to tap the phone’s hardware, particularly motion sensors and cameras. Coincidentally, these are the very same capabilities needed for VR and AR programs.
WebXR, short for Web Mixed Reality, is an upcoming standard that would give browser makers, developers, and users a common language for enabling virtual and augmented reality using the very same web technologies used for making web apps. One of the goals is to simplify the development story, utilizing tools, programming languages, and libraries already available to web developers while also lowering the barrier to entry for users. All you need, in other words, is a device capable of running a web browser, like Google Chrome.
Of course, that doesn’t happen by magic and browser makers still need to support the WebXR Device API in particular. Unsurprisingly, Google is one of those heavily pushing for its adoption. Currently, the version that will be shipping in Chrome 79 only caters to the VR side of things since it’s relatively simpler to support. Google promises that AR wouldn’t be too far behind.
Chrome 79 Beta also introduces support for Adaptive Icons that will make Progressive Web Apps or PWAs on Android look more consistent with the rest of the platform. Developers also get a new Origin Trials program that lets them test and give feedback on experimental features. Chrome 79 is scheduled to have its stable release in December.