Truth be told, Google’s VR and AR direction is all over the place. From Google Cardboard to Daydream and Project Tango to ARCore and, now WebXR. That last bit, however, may stand to have the biggest chance of making it big, depending on how much backing it gets from competing companies. WebXR is an up and coming web standard, like, say, HTML and CSS and ECMAScript, that would, in theory, enable AR and VR to work on any platform with a web browser and Google’s first WebXR demo shows how.
The “X” in WebXR can stand for either “A” or “V” and that’s because WebXR is proposing a standard set of API for web browsers to support both AR and VR experiences. Of course, that sounds great on paper but, considering the wide range of hardware out there, it might be a little difficult to implement. That’s why Google is taking baby steps with the smallest supported device of them all: your smartphone.
Some Android phones already support AR natively, at least Google’s ARCore platform. In fact, this new demo first previewed at I/O last month requires ARCore to be installed on a compatible smartphone, which is quite small in number. It also requires you to have Google Chrome Canary, the unstable version, to be installed and
chrome://flags/#webxr-hit-test to be enabled.
So what’s the point of the whole exercise? That’s pretty much all you need to have installed. No fiddling with apps, no other special platform. Once ARCore becomes standard on Android phones and WebXR becomes enabled by default in stable version of Chrome, you won’t even need to install anything at all. Just go to the Chacmool website and drop 3D AR objects into your living room as you wish.
That is definitely the kind of accessibility that AR (and VR) needs to become mainstream but it all depends on one important factor. WebXR is still a proposal that might not even become a standard. And as it stands now, web-based AR doesn’t yet give developers access to more specific camera features, though that could be improved down the line. If it ever gets there.