Virtual Reality Comes to the Web — Maybe for Real This Time
Backed by Google and Mozilla, VR-enabled browsers and gear could soon immerse Web users in 3-D worlds
12-29-2014 | Susan Kuchinskas
Get ready to take the stage with Paul McCartney. If that’s not your thing, you can test-drive the latest SUV before it’s available in showrooms or experience a movie as though you’re in the scene. That’s been the promise of virtual reality (VR) for years, although stepping into an immersive three-dimensional virtual world has always required expensive stereoscopic head-mounted displays and other specialized equipment.
A new, more accessible form of virtual reality delivered via the Web promises to let people experience digital worlds in 3-D using head-mounted displays connected to a variety of browser-enabled devices. Web VR is expected to offer the ability to move you from one immersive experience to another with a click of the mouse, touch of the screen or nod of the head. Web VR will let software developers port their virtual worlds to the Web, making them available for most VR hardware.
Google and Mozilla are setting these wheels in motion within the next month or so when they deliver updated Chrome and Firefox browsers that support Web VR. Facebook’s $2-billion acquisition of VR headset maker Oculus VR earlier this year and the release of relatively inexpensive headsets from Samsung and Google provide further evidence that Web VR could be ready for wider use.