WebVR and WebXR explained

WebVR delivers VR videos and other content into your web browser. First, you see a flat display preview on your desktop or mobile device and from there you can choose to go into VR mode and experience it with your headset. The Oculus Quest and Oculus Go headsets have native VR browsers meaning they already work in VR environment and allow you navigate websites and online content in VR.

It’s like going from one video site to another in your browser without having to install a separate application each time.

Disclaimer: The WebVR API is being replaced by the WebXR Device API, but may still be available in some browsers while the API is finalized. In this post “WebVR” can be replaced with “WebXR”.

WebVR Pros and Cons

VR videos seem to be a perfect fit for WebVR. But in reality, browsers were not designed for a VR environment, as it has very different mechanics, much more than the difference between mobile and desktop browsers. WebVR players rely on the browser’s engine, and that means:

  • It can not process video higher than 4K 60FPS videos (in VR, 6K 60FPS is the current standard)
  • It takes time for new VR engine developments to be supported by browsers, and this is not always possible.
  • VR user interfaces also lack performance compared to native application

Alternatively, the native DeoVR app can be installed on VR devices from content stores (called “native app”). This way the player accesses VR assets directly, not through a web browser.

Even a 4K frame rendered by a browser is not as good as the same 4K frame rendered by a native video player. And since you have a pair of images the stereo effect is further deteriorated. On the other hand the video processing performance and rendering of browsers improved significantly with WebVR ver 1.1 (released in September 2019) and compared to native applications, the difference in quality has been reduced.

Watching videos in WebVR

Deo WebVR supports two modes: VR Hub and VR video player which work differently in web browsers, native VR browsers and on different headsets.

In VR Hub, the content is being displayed in a grid so you can navigate through videos using pages, filters and search. It can be accessed from both web browser and the native VR browser. Once accessed from a web browser it needs to be switched into VR mode and used with a headset.

VR video player works in a variety of modes in web browsers. Videos can be watched in (called “flat”) just like on standard flat video sites, though the video will have inherent distortions of equirectangular projections (all the videos are shot in fish-eye which is intrinsically distorted on flat screens). It works well for a quick preview, but you can’t really enjoy the video itself. 360 sphere is another type of flat preview - you can rotate the video with your mouse on a desktop browser and by using rotating your phone. Eventually, you can move to VR mode for the ultimate experience. Instead of opening each video separately from web in VR mode we made an option to navigate through the whole library of videos in VR via a hub interface. This approach significantly increases interaction with content and user engagement.

Our usage data for big clients shows people prefer flat view for trailer previews (the default setting) and VR mode for full length videos. The full data can be seen below:

 

 

Flat

360º Sphere

VR Mode

Trailer

43%

28%

29%

Full length

19%

30,5%

50,5%

Native VR browsers like Oculus Browser and Firefox Reality show everything in VR mode. Visitors can access content in VR without downloading any other app. Tube interface is provided with the DeoWebVR hub along with DeoWebVR player - that’s everything required for a 100% WebVR video site.

 

 

Tethered headsets
Oculus Rift S, HTC Vive Pro, Windows MR, Valve Index

All-in-One headsets
Oculus Quest, Oculus Go

Mobile headsets
Android and iOS cardboards, GearVR, DayDream

VR Hub

VR mode

VR mode

Flat, VR mode

VR video

Flat, Sphere, VR mode

VR mode

Flat, Sphere, VR mode

For web browsing the WebVR player is a great previewing tool to get an idea of the content. But it’s highly recommended to use the native DeoVR application to get the best VR video experience. That’s why we have the option for users watching VR video in DeoWebVR VR mode to open that same video in the DeoVR app.

While we are intensively developing our WebVR assets, we see much greater customer satisfaction with the native DeoVR player. It’s suggested that VR video sites offer their visitors full integration with the WebVR hub and player linking to the native app hub and player. This method means users can easily access content with WebVR and enjoy it at its best in the native app.

DeoVR’s monthly content distribution of petabytes of VR video data shows the video previews in native app ratio compared to WebVR as 65% to 35%, with 11% of WebVR viewed in VR mode. For full-length content, native apps count for almost 90% of viewing time, with WebVR represented by 7% used with VR mode and 4% in flat and sphere modes.

Goodbye WebVR. Welcome WebXR

WebXR will replace WebVR and provide much better performance.

WebVR brought first-generation VR into browsers but soon it will be replaced with the more advanced WebXR API, and will also support AR. Once updated, users will be able to enter VR mode with no additional setup required. Currently, the user has to enable a number of flags in Chrome before they can watch VR content in the headset. It also has in-built support for AR.

You can see if your browser is compatible at:

https://caniuse.com/#search=WebVR

https://caniuse.com/#search=WebXR

Developers might like to check the WebXR Device API documentation: support for accessing virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) devices, including sensors and head-mounted displays, on the web.