Ever since WebXR was introduced in 2018 as the new application programming interface (API) standard, it has been in the news with immersive content creators applauding its potential. WebXR is much simpler for content development in 3D, compared to the WebVR API which it superseded. While WebVR supported only virtual reality, WebXR supports augmented reality as well. Thus WebXR has removed the high entry barrier for web content developers, democratizing it, making it far easier to create immersive experiences for browser-based viewing. In the process, it made app downloads obsolete, since WebXR is not sensitive to any specific operating system.
The simple answer is WebXR is a group of standards which are used together to support rendering 3D scenes to hardware designed for presenting all the virtual worlds – VR, AR and MR, and also what will emerge in the future. It is a product of the Immersive Web Community Group, which has contributors from Google, Microsoft, Mozilla, and others.
The reason why WebVR made way for WebXR is due to the restrictive nature of the former. With WebVR, the immersive content could be viewed only on VR headsets. This was proving to be a hindrance for the AR segment which was equally important. By combining all three immersive experiences – Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR), and Mixed Reality (MR) – WebXR offers viewers a choice of devices to view the content – ranging from VR headsets to experience it at the higher end of the spectrum, and the smartphone at the lower end, with AR headsets, smart or AR glasses and other mobile devices like tablets at the intermediate level. What WebXR really does is bring immersive experiences to the masses. The ‘X’ in XR stands for Extended Reality, which embraces anything in the spectrum of immersive experiences – from complete reality (naked eye) to completely immersive (VR), with various levels in between (AR/MR).
WebXR is eminently suitable for business applications like design and development, prototype testing, product presentation, practical demonstrations, training and maintenance procedures. Facebook, for example, launched WebXR on its portal to encourage developers to share their content, opening many avenues to them. While e-commerce platforms – furniture, gifts, gadgets, apparel, cosmetics and other stuff – are among the early adopters of WebXR for their marketing campaigns, industry is not too far behind. The automotive industry, for example, is using WebXR to simulate different scenarios in order to study the problems in models under development and make changes to digital prototypes before actually creating a physical model. Similarly, applications in other industries – discrete manufacturing and process industries – are also growing with companies preferring to design and perfect their products, plants and assembly lines virtually before starting work on building them physically. The same is true of healthcare, building & architecture, education and many other sectors. As the use of digital twins grows, WebXR, which is still evolving, will be adopted to more and more industrial applications, in conjunction with other digital trends like artificial intelligence and machine learning.
WebXR has become popular is a relatively short period thanks to its many features and benefits, which are listed below:
Every technology, whatever the benefits, also has some limitations and WebXR is no exception. Here are a few drawbacks:
These are early days for WebXR as the technology is still evolving. Yet it has created enough buzz to get enterprises excited about the opportunities it opens to them as seen in the many benefits. The simplicity in terms of access and hardware requirements makes it more appealing than standalone VR technology and the access by smartphone democratizes it like no other. However, there are some shortcomings. Also, when applied to business, companies have to be wary about the wrong kind of content and may well be advised to seek expert help from professionals.
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