Firefox browser maker Mozilla is making the jump to virtual reality (VR) headsets: The non-profit released a new browser dubbed Firefox Reality for Oculus Go, Google Daydream and other mobile VR headsets Tuesday. Users of the browser will be able to access both traditional websites as well as web-based virtual reality experiences.
The browser is part of a push to bring virtual and mixed reality applications to the web, according to Mozilla’s Chief R&D officer Sean White. “VR and AR need to be about experiences, not applications,” he told Variety during a recent interview.
White argued that web-based VR wasn’t just better for developers looking to bring their games and experiences to multiple headsets, but that the technology also offered a better user experience. When users don’t have to download and install an app before accessing it, they’d be able to more easily discover and try out new experiences. “The web will matter more and more” for VR, he said.
At launch, Firefox Reality will run on Oculus Go, Google Daydream and HTC Vive Focus as well as other mobile headsets making use of HTC’s mobile VR platform. Users will be able to download the browser app directly from the Oculus, Google Play and Viveport app stores on these respective devices.
Firefox Reality promises users a VR-optimized web experience thanks to a focus on performance and usability, White said. This includes voice search, which takes away the need to use a virtual keyboard to navigate the web in VR. At launch, voice search is being powered by Google’s speech recognition technology, but Mozilla has plans to eventually rely on its own Deep Speech technology.
In future releases, Mozilla wants to also align Firefox Reality more closely with its other products, and for instance give people access to their Pocket bookmarks and the websites they have visited with Firefox on their desktop PC.
Mozilla has plans to ultimately expand the reach of the browser to other devices, including augmented and mixed reality headsets. It previously announced a partnership with Magic Leap, but White declined to comment on a potential release of Firefox Reality on Magic Leap’s AR headset.
This isn’t the first time Mozilla has tried to expand the reach of Firefox beyond desktop and mobile devices. A few years ago, Mozilla tried to build its own operating system for phones and smart TVs dubbed Firefox OS. The non-profit ultimately ditched those efforts, and White argued that it had focused too much on the needs of its device partners and not enough on those of the user.
That’s why in VR and AR, Mozilla is now striking its own path, and building technology designed to run on multiple devices. In addition to Firefox Reality, this also includes the development of Hubs, a social VR platform designed to run in the browser. Hubs has been developed by former employees of the social VR startup AltspaceVR, who joined Mozilla around a year ago.