Today I decided to try a website supporting WebVR with my PC and Oculus Rift. I was happy because I was to experiment the future: finally I could experience the ability to try some virtual reality content without passing through any hub (like Oculus Home), just going with my browser on a website. I was excited.

This is the feature that makes WebVR so awesome. WebVR means two things:

  • No need to install any particular app on the device;
  • No need to worry about the platform: the same WebVR app can run on PC (e.g. Oculus Rift) and on Android (e.g. Cardboard), without further modifications.

This is the power of web apps in general and this will be super-important for virtual reality spreading: finally we’ll have the ability to try contents on the fly, without installing an app for every single experience we want to experiment. From a developer side, the fact that only one development is necessary and then the app is cross-platform out of the box makes this technology super appealing.

So today I was going to try it. I opened the website with Chrome and… WebVR didn’t work. I tried with Firefox and… the same. I started looking for a solution and found this super useful website that talk about WebVR browsers. Seem that to experience WebVR the suggested browsers on PC are:

  • Firefox Nightly (i.e. Firefox updated continuously with super-cutting-edge features);
  • Chromium (i.e. open-source version of Chrome, with super-cutting-edge features);
Firefox nightly webvr
The super beautiful logo of Firefox Nightly… love it (Image by Mozilla)

I downloaded Firefox Nightly, installed it, launched it and… my Oculus runtime halted. On the screen I could read the sentence “Sorry, Firefox.exe is taking a while to load. If the problem persists blablabla”. The same with Chromium. I started trying different settings and stuff and suddenly my headset screen became completely black. WTF.

I started googling around and I discovered that this is a common issue, I’m not the only one experiencing it. And these issues started more than one year ago. Don’t misunderstand me: a lot of people have managed to experience WebVR, but there have been also a lot others having issues. These issues depends on:

  • The headset used (Oculus vs Vive)
  • The version of the headset runtime in use
  • The type of browser used (Firefox vs Chromium)
  • The version of the browser (I found a thread where people had to downgrade Firefox to version of June 2016 to use WebVR, but I didn’t have luck with this solution)
  • The particular website (particularly, the version of WebVR APIs that it’s using)
  • The graphic card (seems that low-budget graphics card do not support WebVR)
  • Other configurations

In the end, I tried lots of different browsers version, but had no luck with this website. What I’ve learned today is that WebVR will be cool, but, as all other stuff in virtual reality, it’s still at its beginning and still lots of problems arise. Consider that these APIs should be compatible with lots of headset runtimes, so they’re very hard to design. Anyway, we’re still talking about the future and not the present.

So I understand WebVR guys, but I’m very sad because I haven’t managed to try web virtual reality today…

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