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Mozilla Pushes Game-changing WebVR to Bring VR to the Masses

A Saturday Night A-Frame

The web has democratized once unattainable products to people across the globe — and virtual reality is no exception. More accessible VR content hosted on the internet will only spur further adoption of the tech.

That’s why Mozilla, the makers of the popular FireFox web browser, are advocating its open source JavaScript API WebVR platform and HTML framework A-Frame to make it easier to design internet-based VR apps that run within cheap smartphone headsets or the more powerful Oculus Rift and HTC Vive.

WebVR—which Google has also officially embraced—can offer immersive room-scale VR software through a web browser without downloads or installs. The graphics quality is a long shot from what you can build in systems like Unreal Engine, but it’s still powerful.

For instance, competitors at the 2017 Virtuleap Hackathon used Mozilla’s A-Frame platform to develop CityViewR—an app that lets you study regional data of a city in VR at room-scale. Another example is Mozilla’s own A-Painter, a Tilt Brush-esque app for sculpting and painting that even has multiplayer.

A-Painter

Sean White, senior vice president of emerging technologies at Mozilla, leads the division that works on tech they think will be in widespread use in 3 to 5 years. WebVR is one of these technologies.

“The beauty of WebVR is that it works on many platforms now with many more on the way, and tools like A-Frame mean that creative self-expression has been opened up to more people around the globe,” White told VRScout in an email. “Sharing is as fast and simple as sharing a web page, and it’s open to anybody.”

He said A-Frame also removes the need to understand linear algebra or programming languages like C++, which are normally critical for developing VR software. Sharing an app on the web also means you don’t have to wait to be approved by gatekeepers like Steam or Oculus.

CityViewR

Mozilla is determined to make WebVR compatible and available across all mainstream VR headsets and web browsers by this year, White said. And in the next five years, Mozilla wants to maintain that compatibility while adding features for augmented reality. (You can check current WebVR compatibility here.)

That doesn’t mean there aren’t challenges—namely, content.

“The biggest challenge that WebVR currently faces is the same one that native VR faces,” White said. “How can content developers find compelling experiences that will keep users coming back to their VR headsets?”

“This challenge is also an advantage for WebVR, as it allows developers to publish and iterate quickly as they explore new VR experiences,” he added.

Technical obstacles also include sending large files over the web, bandwidth limitations and device compatibility, White said.

A-Frame

Mozilla is now hosting exhibits at tech festivals across the world to promote the platforms which launched in 2016, most recently at the 2017 A MAZE. festival in Berlin. They’re focused on reaching out to existing developers to get them to try A-Frame and experiment with building WebVR content, White said.

“A-Frame is the framework that we are supporting and building educational resources around as the best way for developers to build a wide variety of WebVR experiences,” he said. “We will continue to work with standards groups, support communities, present at workshops, and evangelize materials that help WebVR and A-Frame be successful.”

Watch the video below to see more apps made with WebVR.

Image Credit: Mozilla

About the Scout

Dieter Holger

Dieter is an emerging technology journalist reporting for VRScout. Send tips to dieter@vrscout.com and follow him on Twitter @dieterholger.

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