During recent years mobile apps have gained much traction, with almost every second business offering its customers or employees a company-owned user-friendly app. Such apps are downloaded and installed via an app store and have access to system resources like GPS or the camera function, living and running on the device itself. Until recent time it was the only possible option for using Extended Reality as web solutions were not able to support such technologies as Augmented and Virtual Reality. However, the web environment does not stand still and the development of programming technologies and tools is continually gaining speed. Today, web browsers capabilities allow to apply XR experience in the web, providing in the web immersive 3D advertisements, advanced VR tools, XR-powered virtual meetings etc.

What is WebXR?

WebXR refers to Extended Reality (XR) technologies, which include Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR), applied in web applications. The term itself was coined in 2018, but has recently become mainstream. Another term used as synonym WebXR is Immersive Web. In essence, both terms stand for virtual world experience hosted through the browser. Just think about Facebook with 360 photos, 360 videos and 3D photos integrated into this social media platform. Moreover, Facebook recently introduced a new “save to VR” option that allows users to save an XR content seen on their account to their mobile devices, so that users can access the content in a fully immersive way by logging back into their Facebook account via the Oculus VR headset. This is a clear example of a successful WebXR campaign at work.

WebXR

Why WebXR?

Why WebXR? The answer is clear. Nobody really enjoys downloading apps. WebXR applications, by contrast, are accessed via the internet browser, such as Safari or Google Chrome, and are adaptable to all devices they are used on. As these applications are not designed for a particular system and can be used on any device without installation.

To sum up, apps installation requires certain efforts, as users have to:

  • find the needed app in the store
  • install the app
  • keep it updated

By contrast, a web application is much easier to use, as users only need to visit a website.

Next logical question is why we still use apps. The truth is that webXR is still at an early stage of its development and, it will take some time before the web could harness the full potential of XR.

When to Сhoose WebXR over XR Apps?

WebXR is best suited for specific and simple tasks, whose main objective is to reach a larger audience in the shortest time possible. In this case, XR is especially effective as well as cost-efficient, as app development is more expensive than web application development.

For instance, if you are a manufacturer of vacuum cleaners, and you want to provide your customers with the opportunity to view how the vacuum cleaner will look in real size or how it will ride on the carpet at home, you do not need a special app as you can provide this opportunity directly on your website. Development of such an application for a web page will take less effort from the company and reduce the product time to market. Besides, such solution will be more financially advantageous for the company compared to developing a conventional app.

Of course, if you wish your customers to interact with your product, in this case with a vacuum cleaner, then it is better to consider using an app. Theoretically, it is possible to create an XR application with complex features in the web, but it will be much more expensive and difficult in development.

Who should Consider WebXR?

  • Advertising Companies
  • E-commerce Companies
  • Real Estate Companies
  • Insurance Companies
  • Retailers
  • Automotive Companies
Who should consider WebXR
Who uses WebXR

What about browser support?

Having stable web browser support is the main requirement of web solutions based on advanced technologies such as AR and VR. Web apps need an active internet connection in order to run, whereas mobile apps can work offline.

Limited browser support may slow adoption and users’ engagement. However, web technologies advance at a rapid pace. The major browsers, such as Chrome, are already offering support for WebXR with their latest browser versions. As the technology continues to evolve, so will the support. 

WebXR by Using WebGL

Today, the most advanced tool for creating XR content is WebGL, which allows to render 3D graphics in the browser. It has recently been enabled by default in Google Chrome, Firefox 4, and Safari. Softengi widely applies WebGL to many AR and VR solutions to enable high performance of WebXR applications.

WebXR by Using WebGL

Applications of WebXR

As XR embraces both AR and VR, it is convenient to break down all applications into two groups, namely WebAR and WebVR applications. All applications can be divided into three main sections: Markers, Image Trackers, and Location-focused solutions.

Markers

The idea behind markers-based applications is that a marker, for instance a digital object, video, audio, 3D models etc, is imposed on real-life environment. This technique is used in AR applications and is  widespread in marketing campaigns, learning support, and creation of gaming experience.

WebXR markers
WebXR Markers

Image Tracking

An AR tracker is a specific pattern or image that an WebAR application can recognize. Once the WebAR system finds such pattern, it constantly ‘tracks’ its position in real world and accurately places a virtual object onto the tracker.

WebXR image tracker
WebAR Image Trackers

Location

Location WebXR is focused on real or virtual environment. In WebVR users can immerse in the virtual world and experience it without leaving their comfort locations. On the other hand, WebAR places digital content in real-life context. For instance, when users move, the imposed content will be scaled and placed accordingly.

WebXR location
Location WebXR

WebAR Applications and Use Cases.

Product Testing

According to Gartner, Inc, already by 2020, 100 million consumers will expect to be shopping in AR online and in-store.

AR can provide an visualized AR product in in the web context, allowing users to review its  details  and try out products before buying them . For instance, Jaguar has launched its WebAR application that allows potential customers to virtually sit inside the car, experience it in a 360º view, interact with hotspots to change color and/or trim, and , when wished, book a test drive.

«We wanted to bring the new Discovery Sport to life between the global announcement and vehicles arriving in show rooms. We have received a huge amount of interest from customers through our retailers across the country, and this will give an exciting immersive experience, beyond that of a traditional online configurator or sales brochure. »

Laura Schwab, Jaguar Land Rover UK Marketing Director

Read more about AR in Retail.

Product Promotion

Due to its entertainment capabilities, WebAR has found a great use in Marketing, especially in product promotion and brand storytelling. By engaging users with  its products, the company builds emotional connection with  potential audience, that  allows it to retain current customers and generate  new ones. The Purina, a pet food manufacturer, introduced its WebAR solution that simulates a feeding process of your pet, which is within users’ easy reach. As the pet eats Purina animal food, the web app shows pop-up icons with comments about pet health improvements and tips on pet nutrition.

WebXR product promotion
WebAR Product Promotion

AR Advertisement

As customers become more and more sophisticated, the advertising industry is forced to embrace cutting-edge technologies to attract new audience, while retaining the existing clients. WebAR advertisement enables viewers to see vivid content in 3D.

For instance, a US beer brand Miller Lite created its own WebAR interactive labels for their products sold on St.Patrick’s Day. Consumers scan the logo on the can of Miller Lite, which redirects them to the relevant brand website. There they can view an AR leprechaun coming out of a can in their real environment and entertaining the users with  tricks, such as pulling a beer can or a snake out of its beard, playing with its beard, etc. Moreover, users can even click pictures of the leprechaun and share them on social media.

WebVR Applications and Use Cases

VR Tours

WebVR provides virtual experience of exploring new locations, where users can look around, discover new sights, streets, objects etc. and learn more about them. With 360 photos, users can navigate in the world across the land and see by looking at markers. For example, Romes Invisible City, an educational project launched by BBC, implemented WebVR to provide its audience with an opportunity to explore Rome in a virtual 3D environment. The solution is based on a WebVR technology that allows to display the virtual experience in a web browser, so that the users do not need to download an extra app to explore Romes Invisible City.

Virtual Meetings

VR brings meetings into the web. Especially in such times as Covid-19 epidemic, when the imposed restrictions force us to self-isolate and limit our social contacts, WebVR Meetings are in great demand. Business meetings, school classes, and university lectures can now take place in the virtual reality. LearnBrite is a virtual classroom, where users can hold virtual meetings and embed various materials, such as presentations, documents and other media resources, thus providing a complete simulation of the real environment The app runs on desktops and mobile devices and does not require downloading.

3D Models

3D Models in VR is another prominent application of WebVR. Today, companies can provide their  customers with an opportunity to view products on their websites in an immersive virtual reality. With web and mobile devices, WebXR allows to experience 3D models of objects, as well as Desktop VR such as HTC Vive, Microsoft Mixed Reality VR, or Oculus Rift S. For instance, Sketchfab allows to upload on its website a model and view it in 3D.

Softengi Business Case: PresentinAR

“Retailers are under increasing pressure to explain the purpose of physical stores, and take control of the fulfillment and return process for cross-channel execution,” said Hanna Karki, principal research analyst at Gartner. “At the same time, consumers are progressively defining the value provided by the experiences they receive from retailers. As a result of these pressures, retailers are turning to AR and VR to offer customers a unified retail experience inside and outside retail stores.”

Softengi has developed PresentinAR, a mobile/web application for previewing 3D models of retail products before buying them. Furniture, home appliances, toys, décor items, clothes, shoes, and even food products can be modeled in 3D. Digital twins of featured products that can be viewed on the screen of the PC or a mobile phone without much effort  engage customers and thereby generate sales. Embedded WebGL product configurator allows a consumer to see a 3D object of his/her choice in multiple variations of colors, sizes, etc.

This application is available in mobile and web versions, so that users who do not want to install one more application on their smartphone can simply take use of a web browser solution.

Read more about PresentinAR.

Final Words…

The outbreak of coronavirus hit almost all industries, forcing many companies to operate remotely. In order to keep on track, most companies’ executives are pushing for alternative solutions on a massive scale. One of the major cutting-edge trends is WebXR. With advancing web capabilities, users do not need anymore to download extra apps to explore Extended Reality. WebXR is an effective tool that helps to engage current customers and generate new ones. If you want to benefit from WebXR, do not hesitate to reach us. Be at the forefront with Softengi!

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