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Google is working on a virtual reality version of Chrome for Android devices

Google is working on a virtual reality version of Chrome for Android devices


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Google wants the entirety of the internet to be explorable in virtual reality, and it's started using its mobile Chrome browser to make that happen. The latest beta and developer versions of Chrome for Android include support for the open source WebVR standard, reports Road to VR. The dev version also makes mention of a "VR Shell" feature that, in the future, will enable mobile device headsets to browse any website regardless of whether it uses WebVR.

WebVR is a JavaScript API that helps facilitate the creation of VR-ready websites. The problem, up until now, is a lack of support for the rest of the web. That means going from a WebVR-supported site to a standard one involves removing your VR headset. Google's new VR Shell for Chrome raises the possibility of a one-size-fits-all approach to making every website explorable in 360-degree virtual space. While Samsung already has an experimental browser for its Gear VR headset, a wider Chrome version for Android would have far greater reach.

The VR Shell is not fully functional right now, but Google is working on it

It's worth noting the VR Shell option is not fully functional at this time. This feature will also likely be useful only when Google releases its Daydream platform. Announced at I/O developer conference in May, Daydream is a kind of successor to Google Cardboard that blends software and hardware optimizations to create a more advanced VR experience.

It includes an entirely new app ecosystem, similar to Oculus' Home, where users can explore an outdoor landscape and access special VR versions of Google apps, as well as third-party software compliant with Google's standards. Daydream hinges on users having an Android device that meets its specifications, as well as a new Google VR headset to house the phone's display and a controller for navigation. So it's safe to say you'll need all of the above to reliably browse the web in VR.

Android VR EMBARGO 5/18

Google's Chromium evangelist François Beaufort says as much in a Google+ post earlier this month. "The Chromium team is working on several features to bring the web to VR," he wrote. "They’ve recently added an experimental flag ... to enable a browser shell for VR. This allows users to browse the web while using Cardboard or Daydream-ready viewers." So while you could theoretically hook up a mouse and keyboard via Bluetooth to a Cardboard device, you'll probably want to buy into Daydream for the full experience when the VR Shell does eventually arrive for everyday consumers.