Virtual reality may be the future of entertainment – depending on who you ask – but the vast majority of content on the internet isn’t set up to be consumed in VR headsets. That’s something Google is working to change, testing a new “VR Shell” setting in the latest version of its Chrome Dev on Android that pipes the regular internet into a virtual reality viewer such as Cardboard or Daydream.
With it, Google’s François Beaufort says, users will be able “to browse the web while using Cardboard or Daydream-ready viewers” without having to take them off and extract their Android smartphones first.
Over in the latest Chrome Beta, meanwhile, there’s now a WebVR setting.
Although there’s some degree of WebVR support in current browsers, it’s a far cry from what Chrome could do with the native API. That includes being able to move between VR experiences on the web without falling back into a flat, 2D mode.
VR and 360-degree content has been gradually proliferating online, with Facebook adding support for 360-degree photos and video among other platforms. However, for the moment they’re all relatively discrete experiences: little silos of VR-friendly media, with the regular web in-between.
The promise of the Chrome updates is that you’d no longer be required to take off your headset just to navigate between those silos, since WebVR would do a better job of delivering everything to a 3D viewer.
It’s still early days, mind, and the big movement probably won’t happen until Daydream gains traction later in the year.
Launched at Google I/O 2016, Daydream is a full platform for virtual reality based on Android devices, with a reference design for third-parties that outlines VR viewers and controllers. Developers can already get to grips with how that works, but it’s not until Daydream-compliant hardware ends up on shelves that we’ll see Google’s full play in the VR space.