Mozilla has revealed that it is developing a web browser to work with stand-alone virtual and augmented reality headsets.
The open-source browser maker said the new browser – Firefox Reality — will use existing Firefox web technology combined with Servo, its experimental web engine.
Mozilla said that while other options for browsing the web already exist for stand-alone headsets, these are closed and platform specific. It wants Firefox Reality to run on a variety of devices and platforms and because the browser – like Firefox – will be open source this will make it easier for manufacturers to add the browser to their platform, and provides an additional level of transparency for users.
AR and VR are still at an early stage but there’s every indication that they will offer an even more intimate and immersive experience than browsing the web already is. This means that VR and AR are very likely to throw up new and difficult questions about privacy. Mozilla said its new browser will build on the permissions model of the web platform, “which provides even more protection than native apps provide”.
Mozilla said that right now mixed reality is the wild west with big questions unresolved ranging from how you type in VR to to how do you express emotion, or view the billions of existing 2D web pages as well as new 3D content. And at a more profound level, there are still unresolved questions about how to stop VR and AR content becoming shut away in walled gardens.
Developers can build for GearVR, Oculus Go, Qualcomm, ODG glasses and Vive Focus, and during the initial development the source code for Firefox Reality will also run in developer mode on Daydream and GearVR devices; Mozilla has released source code and developer builds but notes the project is at an early stage: “We have a long way to go before this project can be considered a ‘full-featured’ browser.”
However, Mozilla may have plenty of time to work on the project as it’s far from clear that VR or AR are taking off right now; despite some initial excitement there has been little take-up of the technology by consumers (business may be more interested) and limited interactive content exists for those with headsets anyway.
MORE ON VIRTUAL REALITY AND AUGMENTED REALITY
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- What HoloLens means for Microsoft and for the future of augmented reality