A clever Redditor spotted information that made him suspect something about Chrome and VR. Soon after, Google confirmed that Chrome will support Oculus Rift technology. This article explores how this happened and what this means for WebVR.
On April 18th, Redditor st6315 posted the following thread:
“Just found that Google Chrome Stable have a flag called ‘Oculus hardware support’”.
Other Redditors capitalized on this information and soon, Google released the news. They officially stated that Chrome’s desktop browser offers Oculus Rift web-based VR.
So what can you do with the Oculus Rift in Google Chrome?
True Discovery or A Publicity Stunt?
People often test unstable builds of Chrome’s web browser to find bugs and other issues. One has to wonder if Google did not intend for someone to “randomly” discover this update.
I’ll dispense with the “tin foil” talk; it is, after all, way less cool than what you can actually do in Chrome right now. Redditors from that same initial post tested out the capabilities.
Take Access Mars for instance: the normal page just has an “Enter 360” button. But, if you enable Oculus support in Chrome://flags, you get a different option.
For those readers who have their own Oculus headsets, see what you can do! Let me know in the comments since I, a poor plebian, do not have a true VR headset.
A Brief History of In-browser VR Support
Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome both showcased an immense interest in both VR and AR.
Google offers support for Daydream now along with Oculus Rift and, of course, Google Cardboard. Firefox supports the HTC Vive AND the Oculus Rift, as well as Windows Mixed Reality headsets.
Firefox offers WebVR experiences like A-Painter as opposed to Google’s offering. Of course, not much is known about Oculus Rift’s applications toward Chrome VR experiences.
Future Tech Recreates the Past
Google did recently partner with CyArk, a 3D laser-scanning nonprofit. Coined the Open Heritage Project, the two entities want to build VR versions of world wonders.
“With modern technology, we can capture these monuments in fuller detail than ever before, including the color and texture of surfaces alongside the geometry captured by the laser scanners with millimeter precision in 3D…” Chance Coughenour told The Verge.
He is a digital archaeologist with Google Arts and Culture which launched in 2011. But, so far, these new endeavors would only work with Oculus, Google Cardboard, and Daydream.
No one knows much regarding Chrome’s potential support for other VR platforms. But the continued support for WebVR development shows an eye toward the future.