One of the biggest news of the last days is that finally, Google Chrome for Windows has added support for WebVR. It was absurd that Google, that is pushing on WebVR and WebAR (let’s say WebXR and we’re all happy, apart from Charlie Fink that hates the term XR), wasn’t supporting it in its famous browser. People like me had to use Firefox or Chromium (that mysterious application that is the open source version of Chrome), or even Microsoft Edge (for WMR headsets) to experience VR websites. And when the son of Microsoft Explorer gets functionalities faster than you, Google, you understand that something is not working as it should.
Finally, some days ago, Chrome support for WebVR has arrived: some Redditors spotted that on Chrome 66 on Windows 10, you can use your Google browser to run virtual reality experiences. But… how to enable it? And… does it work? I’ll try to answer both questions in this post.
Let’s start from how to enable it: the process is very straightforward once you know how to do it… but if you don’t know, well, you’ll hardly manage to find the way. So, follow my soothing voice telling you the steps:
Update your Chrome browser, so that it reaches at least version 66 (If you go to Menu (the 3 dots on the upper right corner) -> Help -> About Google Chrome, it will show you the current version and will auto-update the browser if an update is available);
Restart your browser after the update;
Go to the address bar and type: “chrome:://flags”. This magical spell will open you a section of special flags of experimental features by Google. Google warns you that the features in the list are experimental and that enabling them could make your browser become unstable, your PC to explode or the Earth be invaded by aliens. Remember: “only the brave” will have WebVR, so ignore this message;
In the search bar for the flags, that you have just below the address bar, type “vr”: this will make Chrome select only the flags regarding virtual reality;
Enable the flags regarding WebVR and the runtime that you usually use for virtual reality: so, if you plan to use Oculus for your WebVR experiences, enable “Oculus hardware support”; if you use Vive, enable “OpenVR hardware support”. Since sometimes I use my Rift through native runtime and sometimes I use it through OpenVR, I enabled all the flags;
Click the RELAUNCH NOW button on your bottom right corner to restart Chrome with WebVR enabled;
Enjoy your fresh new WebVR browser! And have a tea with the aliens that have invaded the Earth thanks to your activation of experimental flags.
All the steps that you have to follow in a single image (Click to zoom in a new tab)
Once you do that once, the settings will persist in all your next usages of Google Chrome and you can enjoy VR forever.
Ok, now that you have your WebVR-enabled browser, you’re ready to experience some cool VR stuff! How is the experience? Mmmmh at the moment… meh.
The first thing I tried with Chrome in WebVR has been Konterball, a little game developed by Google, where you control a table tennis paddle with your head. It worked like a charm. Great! I was happy about that, so I decided to start an experience that let me also see how the controllers were performing. To do that, I tried to open Under Neon Lights, an experience made by Within, in partnership with Google and… do you know how controllers were performing? If you thought “In no way since there were no controllers in VR“, you’ve won a prize. My Oculus Touch controllers haven’t been detected in a single experience inside Chrome, both using OpenVR and standard Oculus runtime.
I decided so to give a try to some A-frame enabled applications… to discover that no A-frame experience works inside Chrome. On some of them, the button to enter VR even says that the browser doesn’t support WebVR. WTF.
The A-frame boilerplate. A-frame prevented me to push the Enter-VR button
On Reddit I’ve already found other people complaining about problems with WebVR and Chrome... so I got the fact that, at the time of writing, the support has been implemented, but there’s still a long road to go to make Chrome compatible with all VR hardware and all VR frameworks. Come on Google, you can do it
(Header image created mixing images from Google and Oculus)