Firefox Reality, A Browser For VR Devices

The browser you are reading this page in will be an exceptionally powerful piece of software, with features and APIs undreamed of by the developers of its early-1990s ancestors such as NCSA Mosaic. For all that though, it will very probably be visually a descendant of those early browsers, a window for displaying two-dimensional web pages.

Some of this may be about to change, as in recognition of the place virtual reality devices are making for themselves, Mozilla have released Firefox Reality, in their words “a new web browser designed from the ground up for stand-alone virtual and augmented reality headset“. For now it will run on Daydream and GearVR devices as a developer preview, but the intended target for the software is a future generation of hardware that has yet to be released.

Readers with long memories may remember some of the hype surrounding VR in browsers back in the 1990s, when crystal-ball-gazers who’d read about VRML would hail it as the Next Big Thing without pausing to think about whether the devices to back it up were on the market. It could be that this time the hardware will match the expectation, and maybe one day you’ll be walking around the Hackaday WrencherSpace rather than reading this in a browser. See you there!

They’ve released a video preview that disappointingly consists of a 2D browser window in a VR environment. But it’s a start.


31 thoughts on “Firefox Reality, A Browser For VR Devices

        1. fullscreen or ‘full field of view’ would be tops on my list. ‘images off’ might be another. ‘snap to grid/horizon’.. pinch-to-zoom, blink-to-refresh, idk

    1. There’s AT LEAST like 20 people who are really pumped up for this technology right now.

      Seriously though, during Firefox’s peak I thought Mozilla could have done no wrong. But today, I can’t wrap my mind around the stuff they think is worth putting their time/money into. This looks like another Firefox OS to me.

      1. Seconded. I want a laptop replacement which, instead of having a folding screen, has no integral monitor and plugs directly into an HMD. File system, web browser, and all programs work in VR. The laptop is just a plank with a keyboard.

        Boom. It’s a Gibsonian cyberdeck. C’mon guys, do you think this is going to be the form factor of the personal computer forever? Have you no passion? No dreams?

          1. That would be cool too, but I don’t think we’re going to leap directly there. We’re still ridiculously far away from a neural interface that sophisticated.

  1. The only thing that would make sense here to me is if this is meant as a library that you can include in your applications to get a in-game browser that is made to be handled with VR HID.

  2. Oh, great!
    It’s not enough that we have clueless, out-of-touch-with-reality jerks on their non-VR cellphones, non-stop, threatening the lives, of anyone within sight, including their totally-ignored children? Why, just give them VR; that’ll solve the problem.

    “Artificial Intelligence is to intelligence as artificial flowers are to flowers.”
    Virtual reality is to reality as a millennial’s values are to reality.

    1. (I’ve written about this previously in a HaD comment)
      Around 4 decades ago, the magazine Stereo Review had fictional story about the Neural Code being cracked. This allowed not only people to have lost vision/hearing/lost motor control restored, but it allowed direct connection to the brain for audiophiles and they didn’t have to worry about signal degradation caused by audio equipment. Computer processing also reached the point where patterns of one individual could be transposed into another individual’s work, (e.g. Mozart orchestrating The Beatles “She Loves You, yeah, yeah yeah”). Miniaturization allowed devices with huge processing power and memory to be easily portable. Then one day, an bored engineer hooked up an audio output into his visual cortex, and experienced sounds as colors. Further along, computers could also do what they could do with audio, visually. You could have your favorite person substituted into the role of a famous actor in a movie, and you could also substitute yourself into the scene. Well, it didn’t take long for all this to become porn. These people, “encees” (for NC’s; Neural Coders) as they came to be called, became a major disruption to society, threatening civilization, as they walked among others, totally oblivious to what was going around them.
      Sound familiar?

      1. I might be older than you, but I remember when LSD was thing. many proponents felt it would alleviate many of our mental leashes, freeing our minds to explore the universe from within, that it would change our lives for the better?

        Well it did change the lives of some people, the better part not so much……led to the cocaine epidemic, heroine epidemic, crack epidemic…sound familiar?

    2. Ha! Yeah those silly millennials, surely none of these technological innovations mean anything. The internet is just a fad! Lederhosen will never go out of style! In my day we walked uphill in the snow both ways! Fire should never have been discovered!

      Socrates thought that written language would ruin people, make them lazy, forgetful, and ignorant. Looks like he was wrong. You sound just as foolish.

      I like your little constructed fantasy where people with cellphones are constantly endangering people’s lives and raising neglected children, by the way. Oh won’t somebody think of the children? You should write a novel or something. Might be funny.

  3. It’s interesting to see mostly negative comments here. Doing some soul-searching myself, I too find “gee, the last thing *I* want is the browser becoming more powerful!”.

    Why is that? Even with Firefox, a piece of genuinely free software?

    I think that is because the browser’s sheer complexity makes it somehow less free, and because we trust it less and less to be “our” ally and suspect it more and more becoming the “advertising industry’s” ally, a kind of renegade sitting in “our” computer, something the ad industry wants more and more to claim as “their” turf (iDevices, Echo and its cousins, Chromebooks, DRM, whatever).

    This piece of software has a trust problem, I think. And that’s very sad.

    1. Some truth in here. I just switched back to Firefox from Chrome because I was getting that sinking “I don’t really own anything on my computer” feeling again. Firefox is a bit more controllable and security minded. I think their outright rejection of java executing arbitrary code on your machine from who-knows-where is wise and takes some balls.

      But yeah, we’re starting to see a chunk of the psyop potential of the internet, especially social media. It needs regulation, but technology regulation is hopelessly slow. A five year lag on something that develops as quickly as machine learning may as well be a century of wild west deregulated madness. And make no mistake, any tech as powerful as that is just as dangerous as an unregulated nuclear reactor or chemical plant. It just ruins people more indirectly.

      Here in Texas we know a thing or two about unregulated chemical plants. The exploding non-compliant chemical plant is like our state symbol. It should be on our flag.

  4. Funnily enough Firefox had a 3D (developers) view of webpages but they removed it since v48.

    And hackaday looks pretty nice in developers 3D BTW, real ordered but layered so you get a real depth look.

    But hey that’s Mozilla, remove anything people like or use and any settings too, then add tracking support for people seeking to track you, then change things over a lot so add-ons stop working and the browser becomes a horrible mess that people bear rather than like.

    1. +1

      If Mozilla would just develop a good, correct browser, that does things it needs to do and what people want it to do, and skip changing working features just because someone thinks doing things differently and wrongly is “nice”, they could be a very better enterprise. Seeing those ads asking for donations to the mozilla foundation, and then later perceiving that one extension doesn´t work anymore, or that the last forced update removed some important setting that you need to use in your workflow really doesn´t help to bring simpatny to their money askings.

  5. Drop back to firefox 21 and go see how much better youtube runs.
    Cuts out some extraneous bells & whistles, But the reduction of buffering stallouts
    makes the site surprisingly tolerable again.

  6. A system for an arbitrary number of virtual monitors would be pretty nice for some kinds of tasks. Might require an imported camera view of the actual physical keyboard though. Touch typing didn’t stick for everyone.

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