Open source giant Mozilla has become the latest to jump on the Oculus Rift bandwagon, developing prototype support for the hardware in its Firefox web browser.
A crowd-funding success story, Oculus VR launched its Rift hardware on Kickstarter to record-breaking results despite warning that the low-resolution hardware was suitable only for developers and other technical types. Following two rounds of private funding, the company developed a second high-resolution developer's kit and while it has yet to launch a retail product was snapped up by social networking behemoth Facebook for a massive $2.2 billion earlier this year.
The best hardware in the world is nothing without software support, of course, but here too Oculus VR has done well for itself. In addition to hiring some of the biggest names in the wearable computing and gaming industries, the company has won support from major software developers and publishers - and the latest is Firefox creator Mozilla, which is working to add virtual reality support to its popular browser.
'The opportunity for VR on the Web is particularly exciting. The Web is a vibrant, connected universe where many different types of experiences can be created and shared. People can be productive, have fun and learn all from within their browser. It is, arguably, an early version of the Metaverse — the browser is the portal through which we access it,
' claimed Mozilla's Vladimir Vukićević
in a blog post on the company's efforts. 'It’s not perfect, though, and lacks many of the “virtual” and “immersive” aspects. Given that, could we not expand the Web to include the immersive elements of a fully three-dimensional virtual universe? Is it possible for the Web to evolve to become the Metaverse that Stephenson envisioned?
To further that aim, Vukićević is working on using existing technologies including WebGL to render and output 3D content to virtual reality devices from directly within the browser. The group aims to have support for as many VR devices as possible, but is currently concentrating on the Oculus Rift as being a widely-adopted and readily-available implementation. Test versions of his modifications are available for Windows
and OS X
, with support for emulation of an Oculus Rift DK1 if there's no real hardware detected.
'The features proposed here are all subject to rapid change; they are not indicative of any standard, and may even change or break from release to release of any upcoming builds,
' Vukićević warns. 'This code is currently not in the main Firefox source tree, though that process has started. The goal of this release is to allow for some initial experimentation and feedback.