Google Chrome has fun new VR and AR features — here's how you can play with them

Google WebXR
(Image credit: Google)

Google Chrome is now serving as the search-engine giant's guinea pig. A handful of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) experiments have hit Chrome's mobile web-browsing platform, and you can engage with them as we speak.

Google's WebXR experiments include four projects: Measure Up, Sodar, Floom and Picturescape. The first three are available for testing now, but users will have to be patient for Picturescape's arrival.

Google dabbles in WebXR experiments on Chrome

WebXR is a melange between AR and VR on the web, and it makes things more fun, efficient and convenient. One of the experiments in Google's WebXR collection is MeasureUp, an app designed to measure the area, volume and length of any object. MeasureUp provides approximate measurements in inches or centimeters. It's worth noting that the final measurements vary from device to device.

MeasureUp WebXR

MeasureUp app (Image credit: Google)

A minute-long advertisement for Google's WebXR collection shows MeasureUp being used to as a digital ruler to determine the circumference of a traffic cone. Hell, you could use MeasureUp to figure out someone's height or even a gigantic tower, according to the commercial. 

The Sodar is another WebXR app that helps you answer the question, "What does six feet look like?" In our pandemic-affected world, you often see signs reminding you to keep six-feet away from others, but you may have trouble visualizing this. As such, Sodar swoops in to save the day — it's an app that tells you how far nearby humans are compared to your position.

WebXR Google Sodar

WebXR Google Sodar (Image credit: Google)

It's likely that "Sodar" is a portmonteau of "social distancing" and "radar." Out of all the four Google WebXR offerings, MeasureUp and Sodar seem to be the most useful and practical apps.

Floom offers more fun than utility. The app is a "fun new way to explore the planet, built with WebXR and Google Maps," said Zebedee Pedersen, Google's Creative Technologist. Floom creates AR portals that spawn you to different foreign locations of the earth. 

Finally, there is Picturescape, which is still under construction. Picturescape is a WebXR app that taps into your Google Photos library for an immersive, fun AR experience. Based on the footage in the commercial, Picturescape looks fascinating and I look forward to seeing the app come to fruition.


Picturescape (Image credit: Google)

How to experiment with Google's new WebXR apps

In order to experiment with Google Chrome's new AR and VR features, you'll need an Android device that supports ARCore. Click here to find a list of ARCore-supported Android devices.

Next, you must make sure you're using the latest Chrome browser. Finally, you can check out Google's new WebXR collection at the following link:

Kimberly Gedeon

Kimberly Gedeon, holding a Master's degree in International Journalism, launched her career as a journalist for MadameNoire's business beat in 2013. She loved translating stuffy stories about the economy, personal finance and investing into digestible, easy-to-understand, entertaining stories for young women of color. During her time on the business beat, she discovered her passion for tech as she dove into articles about tech entrepreneurship, the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) and the latest tablets. After eight years of freelancing, dabbling in a myriad of beats, she's finally found a home at Laptop Mag that accepts her as the crypto-addicted, virtual reality-loving, investing-focused, tech-fascinated nerd she is. Woot!