The ongoing virtual reality battles aren’t just being waged on the hardware side. Software firms are making a big play for the platform—particularly the ones making 3D engines, which game and app makers are heavily relying on to help them create optimized content that looks good and runs at a crisp 90 frames-per-second refresh.
While Unity and Unreal have fetched the most headlines about VR 3D engines, Google might have a surprising game-changer on its hands: the Chrome Web browser.
A Wednesday report from Road to VR surfaced a late-April speech from Google software engineer Boris Smus, and that speech stood out because it stressed efforts by the Chrome team to finally support a 90 frames-per-second refresh for systems such as the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift. Up until recently, the burgeoning WebVR platform had been capped at 60 FPS, which doesn’t reach the necessary visual-smoothness threshold needed to ensure comfort for VR users.
Of course, merely having text and content-scrolling display a few frames faster on your favorite 2D sites isn’t going to set the VR industry on fire, but the WebVR platform is another matter. Until Unity or other engines announce a simple path to enabling browser-based distribution of VR executables, WebVR is poised to be the most solid way to get VR experiences up and running in Chrome, and Smus' demonstration and speech pointed to the platform recognizing and enabling use on the HTC Vive and the Oculus Rift, should developers want to support either or both. Smus specifically showed off a running Chrome demo that recognized the HTC Vive's motion-tracked hand controllers while rendering its visuals at the full 90 FPS refresh, and the demo included full room-scale tracking, as opposed to limited, pseudo-VR content as seen in 360-degree videos.
But Smus' insistence that the platform is "good enough to deploy real things" is certainly intriguing, and for VR content creators who opt for simpler textures and other rudimentary graphical options—like the kinds that work on weaker platforms like Samsung GearVR—the platform may very well prove suitable and offer a neater distribution path for experimental and film-like content.