Google is one of the few companies of its size willing to commit to trying out new ideas on a large scale. While these projects are often killed off without restraint, it's still fun to see what new software is released from its labs each year. In its latest experiment, Google is launching some new WebXR apps for Chrome, designed to combine AR and VR to add new context to the world around you. From scannable social distancing to a virtual gallery of your memories, these new "XR experiences" are pretty wild.
Only three of these new WebXR apps are available to try out today, with the fourth — and arguably most interesting — kept in development. First up is "Floom," which spawns selectable portals on the ground, transporting you to the other side of the world. The app shows when you're hovering over land or water, and once you've opened a new tunnel, the name of your new location is displayed on-screen. It's a fun concept, even if it doesn't have any practical application in real life.
Next is "Sodar," a "social distancing radar" that highlights a two-meter bubble around your location as you move. You'll need to keep your phone up to your face to use it properly, which may inhibit its real-world use. Still, it's a neat idea as we come closer to some return to normalcy, where you might want to keep a small amount of distance between people outside of immediate family and friends.
From left to right: Floom, Sodar, and Measure Up.
Because you can't have an AR project without developing a measurement tool, Google's third app is "Measure Up." This app is designed to measure the length, area, and volume of any object, using your phone to place pins along the edges of nearby items. Although some additional settings to change how measurements are taken could make this a little more practical, it's one of the more effective uses of this idea to date. Being available in a web browser rather than as a dedicated app also makes it more accessible in a pinch.
Finally, "Picturescape" is still a work-in-progress, but it promises to be one of the coolest of the bunch. Picturescape is pitched as a new way to view your memories, using your Google Photos library to create a virtual photo gallery. Based on the video footage presented, it seems like a fascinating project — especially if it's eventually extended to full virtual reality headsets.
You can try out Floom, Sodar, and Measure Up by heading to Google's WebXR experiments page on any Android device that supports ARCore. If you've been working on your own AR or VR software, you can also submit your project to be featured alongside these apps.