Google is now testing what appears to be a release version of its WebXR API in Chrome for Android, based on a recent report from 9to5Google. Appearing in Chrome Beta for Android, the API allows Chrome users to point their smartphone at their surroundings and see AR objects overlaid on the world around them.
Now, since this is a fairly new API, WebXR isn’t exactly widely-used across the web. But Google has provided a couple of examples, shown in the videos from the source below. Those are the “Immersive AR Session” and the “Hit Test” AR session. Both will work in the Beta variant of Chrome on Android.
What exactly does WebXR bring to the AR table?
The first of Google’s new test experiments for AR, as noted above, is dubbed Immersive AR Session. As its name suggests, an immersive layout of the solar system. Users can step through the pre-set objects from all angles. That type of experience showcases how WebXR might be more useful in the context of presenting users with preset information and graphics.
While less interactive, that might be useful for overlaying specific types of information that could walk a user through a given project they’re trying to complete. For instance, it may prove useful for sites that center content on DIY projects or repairs. Conversely, it may be useful simply as a way for a business or landmark to highlight details. That information and graphical interface could be specific to a given location or attraction.
The second example, the “Hit Test” for Chrome’s WebXR API, is more functional and interactive. It showcases how users can interact with their digital AR environment. In this case, that lets users place objects that are then overlaid on the real world. The obvious use cases here would be for games or similarly interactive augmented experiences. Shopping and testing the fit of objects overlaid onto the real world might be an obvious example.
When does Chrome 81 land on Android and will this come to other platforms?
Chrome 81 and this feature on Android are currently accessible via a quick download of Chrome Beta from the Google Play Store. Users don’t even need to activate any of the “chrome://flags” experimental features to turn it on. That’s slated to land in the Stable Channel for Android on or just after March 17.
There are no flags needed to use the new WebXR API on mobile at this point in beta. So it should be fully implemented at that point in the Stable Channel. But that doesn’t mean this will necessarily arrive on every other platform anytime soon.
Chrome’s WebXR API was first spotted back in late 2019 and it supports far more than AR, to begin with. It also supports VR via headset accessories. So this could eventually be utilized on desktop systems a much deeper, fully virtual experience.
AR relies on external camera hardware that simply isn’t present in many computers but is on mobile devices. That hints that it will become available for desktops and even Chrome OS at some point but will likely be more closely tied to the VR side of things.