WebVR: Getting real in your browser

Here at NYU IT’s interactive development team, we continue our intrepid explorations of the world of virtual reality (and the related areas of augmented and mixed reality). On one of our latest forays we took a look at WebVR, and we’re pretty excited about the pedagogical potential of this tech platform. So, what is WebVR?

The term “web VR” could refer to any implementation of a virtual reality experience that’s accessed in a web browser (as opposed to, say, in a mobile app or a standalone system). But the name “WebVR” (capital W, no space) is more specific: It’s an open-source technical specification (a JavaScript API) that makes use of a VR headset (like Google Cardboard or Daydream) and a VR-capable mobile device (an iPhone, say) to present an immersive environment in a browser.

The technology is still quite new, but interest in WebVR is exploding and you can already find lots of impressive applications. Here’s a site that immerses you in (and under) the Pantheon in Rome, published by the BBC. This VR environment is interactive even with a cheap, buttonless Cardboard viewer—you can direct your movement through the landscape, and get information about objects, just by focusing your gaze on a particular point in the scenery.

If you’re dying to immerse yourself in these scenes but don’t have a VR viewer, you can visit our office to test-drive our equipment—just drop us a note on our contact form. Or you can build your own Google Cardboard viewer for free, or buy one pretty cheaply (they start at under $10).

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WebVR is an open-source spec that makes use of a VR headset and a mobile device to present an immersive environment in a browser.