Google Chrome to join Firefox with early VR support

July 4, 2014 // 11:01 a.m.

Tags: #browser #chrome #chromium #google-cardboard #google-chrome #oculus-rift #virtual-reality #vr #web-browser #webgl #webvr

Google has confirmed that it too is working on adding support for virtual reality (VR) hardware to its popular Chrome web browser, following Firefox creator Mozilla's release of prototype code featuring Oculus Rift support.

Late last month, Mozilla engineer Vladimir Vukićević announced Oculus Rift support for Firefox with the release of prototype builds for Windows and OS X. 'The opportunity for VR on the Web is particularly exciting,' he wrote of his work. 'The Web is a vibrant, connected universe where many different types of experiences can be created and shared. People can be productive, have fun and learn all from within their browser. It is, arguably, an early version of the Metaverse — the browser is the portal through which we access it.'

Google's Brandon Jones apparently agrees, and has released prototype releases of Chromium - the open-source browser on which the proprietary Chrome browser is based - featuring initial support for head-mounted display devices. 'Chrome's current implementation is very close to Firefox's, so it doesn't make sense to re-state what's already been written,' Jones explains in his blog post. 'One thing that's worth talking about, based on the reaction I've seen to Vlad's post, is what a "VR-enabled browser" actually entails. There were several people that seemed to expect that this meant you would start up your browser, put on your headset, and immediately be immersed in a fully VR browsing experience. Sorry, but no. That day is a long ways off, if it ever gets here at all.

'[i]Instead, just like adding WebGL to the browser doesn't magically make everything 3D, adding WebVR doesn't turn everything into a Virtual Reality experience. Instead, it provides an API that allows developers to create VR content in the context of a web page,
' Jones adds. 'Picture this: You are browsing Amazon and find a jacket/TV/bike/whatever that you're interested in. If Amazon's developers took advantage of the WebVR API they could add a button that says "View in VR" which let you view the item through a VR headset in 3D at 1:1 scale. In the case of a piece of clothing you could see it on a virtual mannequin, walk around it, lean in and examine the stitching, and so on as if it were actually sitting right in front of you. You could also imagine similar experiences with educational tools, data visualization, mapping, and so on. WebVR gives developers the tools needed to make it happen. And of course there will be games. That's such a given it's not even worth mentioning.'

Jones has provided Chromium builds for Windows and OS X, based on the nightly code base, but has this warning for early adopters: 'These builds are intended for development and testing only! They have not been vetted for stability or security, so please don't use them as your day-to-day browser.'