Tuesday, December 13, 2016

New experimental WebVR builds for Android

It's an exciting time for WebVR on mobile right now! Today the Chrome team announced that WebVR is available as an Origin Trial in the Chrome 56 Beta for Android. Oculus has also recently launched their Carmel browser preview, and Samsung is continuing to improve their implementation. On the desktop side Mozilla is continuing to make great progress, and the spec is making huge strides as all of the interested parties (like Microsoft, whose input has been invaluable!) identify the rough points and flesh out the edge cases. The future of VR on the web looks bright!

And because we're so excited about that future, a few of us on the Chrome VR team wanted to give developers a peek at what's coming for WebVR performance beyond the Chrome 56 release. Browser release schedules being what they are we weren't able to get all of the optimizations for WebVR into Chrome 56 that we wanted and still hit the release date. We've already got some exciting proof-of-concepts for significant performance enhancements that we intend to make part of future builds though! So in the tradition of the experimental desktop builds that have bootstrapped the WebVR desktop development community we're making an experimental Android Chromium build available today on https://webvr.info/get-chrome (Look for ChromePublic-webvr-native-WIP-201*****.apk)

This build carries with it all the caveats of the previous experimental Chrome builds for Android. It's not intended for normal browsing, it's definitely a bit unstable, it doesn't have various patent-encumbered media decoders baked in, and it comes with exactly zero support. What it DOES have is our latest and greatest rendering pipeline research that we've found to yield pretty impressive performance wins.

I should take a moment and call out my colleague on the Chrome VR team Klaus Weidner for his excellent work in this area. I may have the public reputation for being the WebVR guy, but Klaus is responsible for a great deal of the WebVR rendering optimization on Android. He gave a great lightning talk about the work he's being doing at the W3C VR workshop this October, which you should check out if you're interested in that kind of thing!

There's some known issues outlined in the Release Notes you should know about, the primary one being that this is currently only for Daydream Ready devices (though a Daydream View is not required.) But if you're a WebVR developer with the right hardware take a peek and give us some feedback!

[EDIT: I also wanted to clarify the Origin Trial thing, since it appears to be a point of confusion. Origin Trials are for sites that want to make a feature available to all of their visitors by default. It's intended for use on pages like the ones linked below that are public facing and don't want to make users flip obscure flags to see the VR content.

If you're just doing development or testing of WebVR pages, though, you do NOT need an Origin Trial token! You can access the exact same features by turning on the "WebVR" and "Gamepad Extensions" flags in about:flags. (The Origin Trial covers both features).]

A couple of pages I recommend trying out with the new build
Happy WebVR-ing!