Web browsing just got a lot more interesting with the arrival of VR support in Google Chrome for mobile. Google is always pushing search forward but Chrome rarely gets any love beyond various minor updates and bug fixes.
All of that is set to change, however, at least it is if you are the proud owner of Google’s Daydream View headset. Once you have found the page you are looking for, you simply slide your smartphone into the headset and immerse yourself in the WebVR experience.
That’s the idea anyway, but it obviously all depends on the content that you are viewing. All existing web pages can be rendered, but if you are browsing academic papers then the experience is not likely to be thrilling, to say the least.
Content that could be rather interesting, presented in a VR format, could include 360° video or games. Should we expect an upsurge in this type of content as Daydream View headsets grow in popularity? Probably not, but it is still an interesting development.
2D Or Not 2D
WebVR technology allows the user to move seamlessly through 2D and immersive content, as well as being able to follow links from within the Daydream View headset and Google Chrome. While people can test drive WebVR now, immersive video through mobile is currently only possible updating Chrome to version 61.
There is a lot that can be explored already, in Virtual Reality, using existing equipment, but bringing the experience to mobile phones is a big step forward in making the technology more accessible. There are, for example, over two dozen VR films to be discovered.
Take a look at Within as an example of what can be done. From stories straight from the imagination, to documentaries that allow you access to stories in ways that have not been possible before. If you don’t have a headset, not to worry – you can still explore these 360° videos in your browser using touch or a mouse.
It isn’t just Google either
It would seem that Google are not on their own in wanting to further develop the technology and push it forward. Apple are apparently interested, as are the guys behind Firefox who have already added the technology to their browsers and made it compatible with more headsets, Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive to be exact.
With Apple now weighing in on WebVR technology, every major brand is now involved with the project. We shouldn’t really be surprised by Apple’s move, in fact it’s borderline predictable, but it is a good sign and it means the technology will develop and be adapted faster. Of course, that doesn’t mean more feature rich content, but at least there is plenty of incentive there.
VR hasn’t really caught on with video games before and it is unlikely to do so now just because of mobile WebVR, but as a teaching aid this technology could prove extremely popular indeed. Highly portable and compatible with existing hardware? WebVR could end up being a major step forward.