Smartphones/Mobile Applications Technology

Demystifying WebVR and VR Headsets

Technology continues to evolve and always will for that matter. Virtual reality is now on the verge of expansion at a rapid pace and is becoming the wave of the future for consumers, businesses, and enterprises alike. So where do WebVR and VR headsets come into play? Here’s the breakdown.

What is WebVR and Why Would You Want It?

WebVR is a JavaScript application program interface (API) for Web browsers that continues to develop. It provides support for many virtual reality devices, such as HTC Vive and Google Daydream VR headsets.

Immerse Yourself into the WebVR Browsing Experience

The API is designed to be cross compatible with all your devices/browsers in a simplified manner, without the need for special programs or installations for the headsets. It’s just a matter of what browsers support what devices and which ones include WebVR capabilities.

Currently, Microsoft Edge, Google Chrome mobile and Mozilla Firefox support WebVR technology in some form for select VR headsets. It provides an immersive browsing experience for things like travel sites, online gaming, schooling and more. This can increase sales and leads by providing a realistic perception that comes to life.

Imagine seeing the mountainous landscape as if you were there or taking a stroll down the Vegas strip. Play a game with friends, right from the battle lines. See the classroom as if you were actually there. Reach out and select options and functions on the page. VR is the wave of the future.

How Does WebVR work?

WebVR runs in the system and handles the connection to various VR headsets, such as the Vive and Rift mentioned above. Sites must be VR-enabled in order to experience virtual reality. The headset then interacts with your Android phone, tablet, or PC browsing experience. Chrome strives to make all websites WebVR-capable so that you do not have to remove the headset for websites that are non-VR capable, but that is a continuing process.

What is a VR Headset?

A VR headset shows high definition images to your eyes in the form of a stereoscopic-displayed system, immersing you into an artificial realm of reality. Two different screens show a slightly different angle to make your brain process everything as if it were 3-D. You can interact in simulated environments that you see within your view.

See the Realism of VR Gaming

3-D gaming is growing in popularity and virtual reality adds that sense of realism to the game. VR gaming adds a completely new experience to the entertainment industry.

Browser-capable games that support WebVR can provide amazing game functionality compared to a standard flat-screen monitor. The API handles communication between the device and the VR headset so that browser games can create exciting experiences for gamers. Fly through the racetrack. Dodge those bullets and head for cover. Grab those tokens or gems. Pick letters to solve the puzzle. VR provides a new way to enjoy gaming online within a browser and feel like you are actually there in many cases.

Experience Artificial Reality that Feels Real

VR headsets usually come with one or two different remotes for various tasks or functions. However, VR headsets designed for Smartphones utilize the phone’s gyroscope, magnetometer, and accelerometer to control functionality. In fact, the phone acts as the screen, such as with Google Cardboard and Daydream VR Headsets where the phone mounts inside the headset.

When you turn your head, the accelerometer detects 3-D movement while the gyroscope detects angular movement. The magnetometer is for sensing the positional status that is relative to the earth, such as when you jump.

Firefox’s Position with WebVR-Enabled Browsing

Chrome and Edge have been working hard to support WebVR in their browsers for quite some time. Mozilla had developed the original WebVR concept back in 2014, but developer Vladimir Vukicevic left for another opportunity and the concept faded. At that point, Chrome won the popularity contest with its WebVR support and functionality for mobile devices.

Edge recently added support for WebVR in Windows 10, in order to fight for lead rankings in the browser game. Firefox has finally released its VR-enabled browser to get back in.

Firefox 55 and its WebVR capabilities work with the Oculus Rift headset and the HTC Vive. Chrome continues to expand its headset compatibility. Now, the Chrome browser works with Google Cardboard as well. As for Microsoft, it enabled WebVR in its Edge browser back in April. Firefox continues to improve its browser in an attempt to reach a higher ranking over those other big browser companies. Its WebVR browser is a big step into the future.

Exploring VR Headset Options for WebVR

Currently, the VR headset you choose will need to be determined based on what you plan to use it with, such as Windows 10, Android, etc. Here are some currently available models from various brands.

Google Cardboard

As previously mentioned, Google has the Cardboard and the Daydream VR headsets. Google Cardboard is just that, but with a place to mount your Smartphone. It utilizes the phone’s hardware and software to create a VR experience at an affordable price.

Google Daydream

Google Daydream is made of soft, breathable fabric, but serves the same purpose as Google Cardboard.

HTC Vive

HTC Vive is another innovative VR headset that is at the top of the list for browser integration. Vive provides real-world awareness that mixes real-world elements into the VR experience through a front-faced camera. It offers a 110-degree view and 32 headset sensors for better motion precision. It also features a 90Hz refresh rate, which is very good. However, your system and your video card need to be able to handle the refresh rate or it will downgrade.

Oculus Rift

Rift has positioning technology that allows the user to move physically through a 3-D environment. It comes with left- and right-hand Touch controllers that allow real and natural hand movement. Rift has a high focus on presence when it comes to VR technology. It features advanced display technology and constellation tracking to make you feel as if you are actually there.

Some Closing Thoughts on VR Headsets

Currently, Rift and Vive get the most attention and are well-known VR headsets on the market. That is perhaps why most browsers are working hard to be compatible with the two models. Samsung created its very own Gear VR headset for certain Galaxy Smartphones, but it only works with those select models. That is why it is important to check compatibility, as well as future compatibility from all major Web browsers. The gaming world has already grasped VR potential, but WebVR is still a work in progress for all browsing capabilities like those online games, visual tours, and 3-D controls.

About the author


David Molnar

David Molnar is CEO of Dave’s Computers, a leader in computer repair and data recovery in New Jersey. LIKE Dave’s Computers’ Facebook page to stay current on computer issues and trends - you might even find some “computer humor” there! Subscribe to Dave’s blog for additional computer tips and tricks.