VR Headsets & WebXR Browsers

What is Virtual Reality?

Virtual reality (VR) is a technology that uses head-mounted headsets with displays to generate the realistic images, sounds, and other sensations to put users into an immersive virtual environment. VR allows us to create unbounded worlds that people can walk around and interact with using their hands, to feel as if they were transported to another place.

What Are the Differences Between Headsets?

There are several consumer VR headsets with different features on the market. Important distinguishing features include whether they:

  • Have positional tracking (six degrees of freedom (6DoF)) or Only have rotational tracking (three degrees of freedom (3DoF)).
  • Have controllers or not, and whether those controllers have 6DoF or 3DoF. Generally, the number of degrees of freedom of the controllers matches that of the headset.
  • Are powered by a PC or by a mobile device or standalone.

Rotational tracking allows people to look around or rotate objects. All headsets provide rotational tracking.

Positional tracking allows people to move around, get closer to objects, reach forward. As the VR industry evolves, the minimum viable experience will trend towards having positionally-tracked headsets with positionally-tracked controllers. Positional tracking is important to give people presence, to make them feel they are in a real environment. With rotational-only tracking, people are constrained to looking around and wiggling the controller.

What Are Some Current Headsets?

Headset Platform Positional Tracking Controllers Controller Positional Tracking
HTC Vive PC white_check_mark white_check_mark white_check_mark
[Oculus Rift] PC white_check_mark white_check_mark white_check_mark
Windows Mixed Reality PC white_check_mark white_check_mark white_check_mark
[Oculus Go] Standalone x white_check_mark x
Vive Focus Standalone x white_check_mark x
[Oculus Quest] Standalone white_check_mark white_check_mark white_check_mark
[Oculus Quest 2] Standalone white_check_mark white_check_mark white_check_mark
[Oculus Quest 3] Standalone white_check_mark white_check_mark white_check_mark

What is WebXR?

WebXR is a JavaScript API for creating immersive 3D, virtual reality (and augmented reality) experiences in your browser. Or simply put, allows VR in the browser over the Web.

A-Frame uses the WebXR API to gain access to VR headset sensor data (position, orientation) to transform the camera and to render content directly to VR headsets. Note that WebXR, which provides data, should not be confused nor conflated with WebGL, which provides graphics and rendering.

What Browsers Support VR?

Including Supermedium and Exokit:

Where Does A-Frame Want to Take WebXR?

A-Frame aims for highly immersive and interactive VR content with native-like performance. For this, A-Frame believes the minimum viable bar will trend towards positionally-tracking headsets with positionally-tracked controllers. This is the paradigm in which A-Frame wants to innovate as well as discover new grounds that are specific to the VR Web (e.g., link traversal, decentralization, identity). Contrast this type of content against flat and static 360° content and menus.

At the same time, A-Frame wants everyone to be able to get involved with VR content creation. A-Frame supports all major headsets with their controllers. Fortunately with the large community and contributors, A-Frame is able to both look far towards the future as well as satisfy the needs of today’s VR landscape.

Which Platforms Does A-Frame Support?

A-Frame supports almost all platforms through browsers. General platforms that A-Frame supports include:

  • VR on desktop with a headset
  • VR on mobile with a headset
  • VR on standalone headset
  • Flat on desktop (i.e., mouse and keyboard)
  • Flat mobile (i.e., magic window)

Some other platforms that have been shown to work with A-Frame include:

  • Augmented reality (AR) on AR headsets (e.g., Magic Leap, HoloLens)
  • Augmented reality (AR) on mobile (i.e., magic window, ARKit, ARCore)

Which VR Headsets Does A-Frame Support?

A-Frame supports most headsets through browsers. Some VR headsets that A-Frame supports include:

  • HTC Vive
  • Oculus Rift
  • Oculus Quest
  • Oculus Quest 2
  • Oculus Quest 3
  • Oculus Go
  • Valve Index
  • Vive Focus

For general hardware recommendations (not requirements):

Which Browsers Does A-Frame Support?

A-Frame supports VR for any browser that implements the WebXR specification, and flat 3D for most browsers. Large browser vendors are slowly moving to the WebXR specification, though it does not have much front-facing changes to A-Frame developers, involving mostly renaming of APIs.

  • Supermedium (available on Oculus and Steam)
  • Firefox
  • Oculus Browser
  • Samsung Internet
  • Microsoft Edge
  • Chrome (WebXR under origin trials)
  • Exokit (experimental early support)

A-Frame supports most modern mobile browsers that don’t have WebXR support through the WebVR polyfill. Note that these browsers do not have official WebXR support, and we are using a polyfill; it is important to lower the expectations that these browsers will provide a quality experience and not have quirks:

  • Safari for iOS
  • Chrome for Android
  • Firefox for iOS
  • Samsung Internet
  • UC Browser

For flat or plain 3D support, A-Frame supports all modern browsers, specifically those that support WebGL including:

  • Firefox
  • Chrome
  • Safari
  • Edge
  • Internet Explorer 11