As the world’s most popular browser, Chrome’s upcoming support for nascent standard WebVR will enable more people than ever to access VR content directly from their web browser. 

With a current estimated marketshare of 72.5 percent and support for a wide variety of internet-enabled devices, Chrome has a lot of weight to put behind new standards. Announced during the W3C Workshop on Web & Virtual Reality – where some of the biggest players met to discuss the future of VR – Google revealed it plans to ship a version of Chrome with support for WebVR 1.1.

WebVR is an experimental JavaScript API that provides access to Virtual Reality devices, such as the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Samsung Gear VR, or Google Cardboard, in your browser. The project aims to develop a set of guidelines, features, and best practices to allow compatibility of virtual reality content across various browsers and devices, each with their own capabilities.

Google plans to launch WebVR 1.1 support in a beta version of Chrome in December and demonstrated the HTC Vive displaying content at 90 FPS. A public ‘stable’ launch is planned for January. Google will focus on the Android version first before releasing support for WebVR on desktop.

Megan Lindsay, WebVR Product Manager at Google, said the initial release is designed with Android’s own ‘Daydream’ VR platform in mind. It’s unclear whether this means WebVR support will initially be restricted to Google’s Pixel smartphone as the first ‘Daydream-ready’ device, or whether all compatible phones will be included.

Support for WebVR is a big step forward in enabling millions to access virtual reality content without the need to download individual apps or deal with set-up and compatibility issues. Users can simply connect their headset of choice – or place their phone into a Cardboard/Daydream HMD – and begin experiencing virtual reality content from WebVR-enabled websites.

The WebVR API is currently available in Firefox Nightly builds, in experimental builds of Chromium, and in the Samsung Internet Browser for Gear VR. if you want to add WebVR to your mobile site today you can use the WebVR Polyfill to provide support for Cardboard mobile devices (such as for iOS and Android).

Jaume Sánchez Elias (@thespite) has created a Chrome extension that allows developers to emulate a VR headset for testing the API without needing any VR hardware.

Are you excited for WebVR’s potential? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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