MozVR: Virtual Reality In Your Browser

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Virtual Reality content seems to be the next big thing that’s about to hit the technology industry like a sledgehammer and take it by storm, radically reinventing everything we know about immersive experiences. Gadgets such as the Oculus Rift and Google Cardboard have made Virtual Reality real (see what I did there?) in ways that make us palpitate with eagerness when we think of what’s to come in the next couple of years.

But perhaps we don’t have to wait that long to see another aspect of our lives being transformed thanks to VR. And that’s because MozVR is here, with the potential to completely revolutionise the browsing experience.

Browsing the internet is already an activity that a substantial amount of the world’s population daily engages in. Now imagine that daily habit that has somehow been taken for granted becoming a whole new experience, a whole new adventure that one simply can’t wait to delve into, as opposed to a routine activity that has become background noise in our lives. Does the situation look promising? Are we almost there? Let’s take a look.

The current state of affairs

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Virtual Reality in your browser isn’t ready yet. And it seems to need quite some time before it starts working in any smooth manner, not to mention mainstream adoption. There’s currently a version 1.0 of the WebVR API built with Javascript on a custom chromium build that can be accessed here  in order to take a look at what’s been accomplished so far.

Initially, they focused on creating content using WebGL, a full 3D graphics API. Although WebGL is a powerful API, it’s only meant to enable high performance graphics on the web. It helps to start exploring Web VR, they real goal is to be able to use HTML and CSS in order to be able to structure and lay out websites in VR. The advantages to using those languages is that they’re easy to use and standardised. If Web VR is to really become mainstream, then it would enable developers to create VR experiences using languages that they’re already familiar with.

The challenges and obstacles ahead

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In order for Web VR to become a widely accepted and adopted technology, it needs to be able to offer, at the very least, the same type of possibilities offered by traditional browsing. Therefore, there needs to be an equivalent to clicking, scrolling, highlighting, etc…

Of course, display will also need to be reevaluated. There needs to be a way to display desktop and mobile sites that were never designed for virtual reality. What will become of window/fullscreen displays? Are there still going to be prompts for those? Are they going to be tweaked so as not to appear too jarring in a VR setting? And what will be the difference between seated browsing and standing browsing, if any?

In order for the VR experience to become a standard (and an accessible one at that), the WebVR APIs need to be adopted in all the major browsers. So far, the cross-compatibility across hardware and operating systems is one of the web’s strongest points. When developers build a site, they usually know that it’s going to work on all browsers, irrespective of if they’re dealing with Mac, PC or Mobile. This is a state of affairs that will need to be maintained with the adoption of the WebVR API into the major browsers. Although there would be little point in doing so at this point because of how recent the project is, but it seems like before long it will actually become a necessary step in order to keep up with technology’s process.

The possibilities of VR browsing

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There are currently a couple of experimental projects that run with the Oculus Rift on Firefox Nightly and Chromium. These are meant to display the various potential ways in which WebVR can be used. Ranging from immersive pure landscape displays to interactive content, the few projects that exist seem encouraging and present the various ways in which VR can be used in the future when it comes to browsing.

The future possibilities seem limitless. Now all we need to worry about is if we’re going to be able to keep up with the times as technology progresses in leaps and bounds! The future sure looks exciting. Let’s not miss it!

Apr, 12, 2016

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