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What is WebXR and Why Should You Care About it?

The History of WebXR

If you've been paying attention, you're going to notice a theme here, but I'm getting ahead of myself. With the advent of consumer VR, came a wave of excitement that, as everyone noticed, faded as quickly as it came. Once company, however, stuck to their guns. It was even secretive, they just kept putting in the work while others either moved on or focused their attention elsewhere.

Referring back to above, if you've read any of our blog posts, you know this magical company is Mozilla. In 2014, a Mozilla engineer started working on this concept. By 2016, there was more buy in from other engineers, and eventually the team was able to produce the first version of WebVR. This would eventually turn into WebXR, but that's besides the point.

As VR (Virtual Reality) expanded, and AR (Augmented Reality) entered the realm of possible, the term XR was coined to capture the amalgam of tech in the alternate reality space, and WebVR was shut down in favor of a new WebXR project that would capture both.

What is WebXR?

WebXR is an API. APIs can be thought of as messengers or translators depending on the actual API, and this is no different. Some APIs exist to allow users/clients to ask a server/database/backend for information, and then they'll deliver this information back to the user/client. In this case, this is an API that allows your XR-enabled device to talk to an application hosted in the web in a way that they'll understand eachother.

Most games are made using a keyboard and mouse with a monitor, but with XR content, you're using an XR headset or device. Because of this, you need to first translate your device inputs into something the browser application can use, and then you'll need to return and translate the information your browser wants to send back into something your XR device can interpret. So in essence, WebXR allows for your controller movements to make sense to the browser application, and it allows the visuals of the application to make sense to your viewport in the headset.

Why is WebXR Important (Why Should you Care)?

I'm a little (very) biased here, but WebXR to me is sort of the app store killer for everything. I'm going to really jump the shark here to prove my point. WebXR is what Ready Player One is. You enter one place (your browser), and you have the entire internet at your disposal. Obviously this is sort of true with the Oculus Store as is, but that's just it, it's the "Oculus Store", it's not the internet.

WebXR is what makes the entire web VR compatible. Have a favorite website? Do they have a mobile site? Well WebXR now lets them have an XR site too. It's just a third medium, and WebXR enables it. Imagine being in a math lecture, wanting to wind down by walking over to a meditation room, then finally finishing by hopping into your car and driving down a virtual coast. WebXR makes the internet a place, not just a means to getting to different separate experiences. here.

Concluding Thoughts

So yea, we're probably a bit far away from that future being fully realized, but I think it'll start in the 2020s. WebXR enables all of this, and Mozilla is getting a headstart by investing a lot of resources into it. Mozilla used to be a web browser, but they may very well become a whole lot more than that, an WebXR has the potential to change everything we know about the internet.

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