Mozilla brings VR to web with MozVR

On Monday, to celebrate the tenth anniversary of Firefox, the Mozilla foundation launched the MozVR project to help fosaster the emerging virtual reality Web.

In June, an Oculus-compatible version of Firefox was released. This is not a full virtual world platform like OpenSim, but more of an open source alternative to Unity 3D. Firefox already supports some 3D features, via WebGL and HTML 5, and the Oculus support allows 3D scenes to be viewed in the side-by-side stereoscopic format.

MozVR is an online community that will help developers share 3D experiences, tools, and tutorials, the organization said in its announcement.

(Image courtesy Mozilla Foundation.)

(Image courtesy Mozilla Foundation.)

The first demos highlighted on MozVR include Sechelt, a WebGL fly-through of coastal British Columbia built with Ricardo Cabello of Three.js, and The Polar Sea, a documentary by DEEP that takes users to the Arctic in 360° VR video, powered by eleVR’s WebGL VR video player.

The platform currently supports only the Oculus Rift, but support for other devices is coming soon.

“We are using the Rift as our initial test and development device, but are committed to device-agnostic Web VR,” the organization said.

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Maria Korolov

Maria Korolov is editor and publisher of Hypergrid Business. She has been a journalist for more than twenty years and has worked for the Chicago Tribune, Reuters, and Computerworld and has reported from over a dozen countries, including Russia and China.

  • Mircea Kitsune

    Beautiful idea! I was wondering if someone will eventually make a VR based web browser for existing websites. I hope this project goes far.

    • Mircea —

      Not quite.

      First, any VR browser, pretty much, will work for existing websites. Take, for example, the Oculus-enabled Second Life viewer or the Ctrl-Alt-Dev OpenSim viewer. Both let you walk around in a world where you can put any website on any in-world surface. (It’s called media on a prim.)

      Similarly, 3DICC’s Terf platform allows in-world Web panels — and supports the Oculus Rift.

      But, more importantly, there really isn’t a huge need for browsing regular websites in 3D. The interface isn’t there yet. So, except for watching movies — where you’re better off with a dedicated app — most of the things you do on a web, you would have a harder time doing in 3D. For example, say you want to browse Facebook in 3D. The type will be too small to read at a normal distance — you’l have to lean in up close, because the resolution of the devices isn’t quite good enough to read type at a distance. Then, you will have a hard time typing anything since you won’t be able to see the keyboard. When you move your mouse, you won’t be able to see the edge of your desk.

      It’s an uncomfortable experience.

      Instead, what’s happening here is that instead of taking existing websites and bringing them into a VR environment – -which you can already do — you can put a VR environment into a website without having to use Flash or Unity 3D.

      What would happen is you would click a link, and it would take you to a website with a 3D view of some environment. Say, Google Street views of the inside of the Louvre museum. Something like that. You’d put on an Oculus Rift or a similar headset, the browser will notice that you’ve got the Oculus plugged in, and will switch from a regular screen view to an immersive 3D view, which the screen is split in two and each eye would see a slightly different image. Now instead of looking at a museum through the screen, you’d feel like you were right inside the museum.

      • Mircea Kitsune

        I see. To be honest, an idea that’s always been on my mind was a web browser that can automatically convert existing web pages to 3D environments. So pretty much whenever you open an URL, you find yourself in a Matrix / Tron like environment. Each table on the page would represent a wall or a room, the text located in frames or displays, buttons / checkboxes / radio buttons near such text, and everything else.

        That would be awesome, especially with Oculus Rift support! Not something for Second Life or Opensim however, this would have to be an entirely new program. I considered trying to code such, but it’s way too complex for my skills.

        • Right, you could do that in OpenSim now.

          In fact, in my OpenSim office, I had several screens showing Web-based dashboards for stuff I was following.

          But the idea of walking around inside a regular website is more of a gimmick rather than anything else. Like, say, walking into a telephone book — how useful would that be? Sure, it would be a cool special effect for a movie, but not particularly practical. What’s more realistic is re-creating websites for 3D, same way that you might take a book, say, and adapt it for film.

          The thing is though, when converting from one medium dimension to another, you are actually re-creating the content.

          So, say you have sound. You can convert it from a record to a tape to a CD to an MP3. But if you try to turn it into a video, you will have to go out and get some visuals to go with the sound.

          Or say you have a book. You can convert it to audio with a digital reader (though you’re better off re-taping it as an audio book) or you can convert it to an e-book. But if you want to turn it into a movie or a video game, you’ll have to rebuild it from scratch. I mean, you can put a copy of a book into a movie or a video game, but it kind of loses its functionality when it’s in there. Imagine a “Harry Potter” video game where you go in, sit down at a virtual desk, then just read the book using the video game controller to turn the pages! LOL

          Same thing for the Web. Say, you want to turn Facebook into something 3D. You can put a copy of the website on an in-world surface. That might have some utility — you might want to post your group’s calendar in-world, or show the latest messages. But if you really wanted a 3D version of Facebook, you’d have people from Facebook interacting in 3D — basically, you’d have Second Life, or something like it.

          • Mircea Kitsune

            That would be nice too… and certainly better, but websites would need to support the feature. Second Life / Opensim probably can’t do what I had in mind till then… since my idea was translating normal 2D web pages into 3D environments. Well, Opensim could do this theoretically… if it could split the page into pieces and generate prims and buildings out of the content.

          • Sorry, I’m not understanding this — you want to generate prims and buildings out of website text?

            I’m having a hard time seeing why you would want to do this. I’m imagining something like this page, with the masthead on one building, the sidebar running up along the outside of a skyscraper, the maintext along the road in front of you, and images on little buildings to the sides.

            Sure, you could do this with OpenSim right now, with appropriate texture stretching — but why would you want to?

          • Mircea Kitsune

            Sort of… sorry for the confusion. My idea was generating a 3D environment out of websites in an appropriate way. Like walls and rooms out of different tables or elements, with text properly arranged across the walls. It could be nice but indeed difficult to automate.

          • I think this would have to be a custom job for each one, and would depend on what the website was trying to accomplish.

        • Cooper Latte

          have a look at VirtualPlan 3D
          You download the app, then pull up the website, the blueprint for the building is flat wireframe 2D on the monitor, but put your tablet or phone with the app pointing at it, the screen of your tablet translates it into a 3d version instantly.
          I have it on my tablet just to goof around, it’s really in demo phase at the moment, but it shows that the technology is out there!