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Firefox Leaps Into the Future With WebVR Update

Sometimes, it can be amusing to consider how new technologies are hamstrung by old problems. This often occurs at tech conferences where we sit around talking about robots and drones but the WiFi doesn’t work. But in VR, it often plays out in how incompatible almost everything still is.

Take the seemingly simple task of showing someone a 360 video from YouTube in an Oculus Rift — it’s a great way to experience immersive content in a whole new way. And yet, there is no easy way to do this. Rather, you have to download a work-around app and then cut and paste a link from YouTube into a box in order for it to play. Clean and futuristic it certainly isn’t.

But with a recent announcement, Firefox is taking steps to make this a little easier for everyone. On August 8 the company released a public update that added support for the Rift and the Vive, making it much easier to use WebVR on headsets. For developers, this could mean the end of customized builds and individual apps, saving time and headaches.

WebVR is nothing new, and save for Safari, most browsers support it, although none have supported it publicly for use in consumer facing headsets. Firefox’s move will hopefully press others to start tearing down the walls that prevent VR from scaling as quickly as it could and allow a new and less siloed ecosystem to flourish.

You’re already seeing companies like Vertebrae ease the scaling question by creating more viable, non-interruptive advertising experiences. The addition of ads won’t directly allow for ease-of-viewing. But the inbound brand investments from advertising will create more funds for VR to work with (and ultimately develop more tools to assist with adoption of the technology).

As more novices get into headsets, the goal needs to be making things as easy as possible for them, or we’re bound to see a massive volume of returned headsets and frustrated customers. I work in VR almost full-time and I still get mad when I can’t just get a video to play correctly in my headset, and I know this stuff pretty well. Imagine how a parent who just bought a cool toy and wants to show his or her kid some fun videos must feel. Purists may scoff, but WebVR is going to be the way in for most people for the near future, and this means that it needs to be practically idiot-proof to work.