Virtual reality (VR) is a reality in 2016. The question for many web users is whether it is worth it.
While it may be early in the evolution of VR, there have been promising advances in a range of technologies, including web browsers. While many people think about the use of VR in gaming, news content and, ahem, intimate activities, the technology exists today to use VR to browse 2D content.
Let’s take a look at some of the VR web browsers on the market in 2016.
SteamVR Web Browser
It’s no surprise that Steam would take the lead in VR web browsing. The browsing experience on the SteamVR browser is rich and comprehensive. There is also a growing library of VR-compatible games to try out, too.
SteamVR provides for seamless transitions between browsing and playing games without jumping from application to application. In the Big Picture mode, the capable browser plays the games and can display nearly any type of web content, including Adobe Flash.
Oculus Web Browser
This free app for Windows features clean and basic VR browsing. It’s not very fancy, but the Oculus Web Browser renders pages beautifully and supports HTML. If you want to watch embedded HTML videos on sites like YouTube though, you’ll need to install a third-party codec.
Arguably one of the leading players right now in VR browsing, JanusVR provides a nearly complete immersive viewing experience. With JanusVR, links are interpreted as portals and pages become rooms. Pictures hang on virtual walls in environments that can be edited by users. If specific HTML tags are embedded, special 3D content appears. JanusVR is taking a different, albeit incomplete, approach.
Samsung Internet for Gear VR
Using either the Samsung Gear VR headset or Oculus, users can surf web content, including 3D and videos shot in 360 degrees that are available on Facebook and YouTube. For “regular” videos, the user has a far deeper, immersive experience with the content. The Samsung browser lets you import bookmarks, manage multiple tabs and use voice recognition. The Gaze Mode lets you open a menu by staring at it.
FullDive VR 3D Browser
Like most new technologies, a large portion of the available VR headsets are pretty pricey. The FullDive is an inexpensive alternative. Available on Google Play, the app driving the FullDive browser lets users browse the web in a VR space and allows text input either by voice command or onscreen keyboard tool. The fully downloaded version has lots of other toys to play with, but the user experience is still in need of refinement.
Right now, the Mozilla project is basically a concept video rather than a full-fledged product, but there’s potential. Using an Oculus Rift, users who have installed the add-on (this is Mozilla, after all) can sample special content in a gallery. Many of those samples work with a Google Cardboard VR headset with an Android or iPhone.
There is so much excitement around VR web browsing, and with good reason. Keep your surfing safe and check out The Best Antiviruses of 2016.