Mozilla's added support for Oculus Rift a step in broader plans for VR

Virtual reality development will now occur in step with other Firefox programming

Mozilla's recent enhanced support for the Oculus Rift headset is just one step in its plans to more fully embrace virtual reality.

Mozilla has added virtual reality support to experimental builds of Firefox that lets people use the Oculus Rift headset to explore 3D environments from inside their browser.

Previously, developers who created programs for the virtual reality headset had to download a separate Firefox build that was designed primarily for virtual reality development. Since that version was a stand-alone product, it wasn't developed as frequently as other builds and lacked features, said Vlad Vukicevic, engineering director, at Mozilla.

"This one-off build usually lagged behind ongoing development. From now on, VR capabilities will be developed alongside other continuous Firefox improvements," he wrote in a blog last week. Perhaps because the blog note was brief, it was not widely reported at the time.

Developers who use Firefox Nightly builds can use the Web VR feature, which calls for downloading a plug-in that works with the Oculus Rift headset.

"The add-on simply provides the Oculus Rift SDK library so that Firefox can access it," Vukicevic wrote. This functionality may eventually be included with Firefox or the Oculus Runtime, he added.

Adding virtual reality support to the Nightly builds, which are meant for testing purposes and constantly incorporate developer feedback, will allow Firefox to offer virtual reality Web browsing in more mobile devices. In addition to directly supporting Oculus Rift devices, Mozilla wants to support devices that run Linux and Firefox for Android and hardware that's part of Google's Cardboard virtual reality project, Vukicevic said.

Fred O'Connor writes about IT careers and health IT for The IDG News Service. Follow Fred on Twitter at @fredjoconnor. Fred's e-mail address is fred_o'connor@idg.com

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