After years of trials, tribulations and terrible failures, VR is finally becoming a reality. Whether you are eying up an Oculus Rift or getting the vibes for HTC’s Vive, it’s not just the inevitable avalanche of VR games and video content that are suitable for virtual reality viewing – now you can browse the 2D web in 3D, too.
For those after that total immersive experience, we’ve rounded up the best VR web browsing options currently available.
1. Samsung Gear VR
While Samsung may be marketing its Gear VR headset more towards Galaxy-packing gamers and movie-goers, the Oculus ‘powered’ headset also gives wearers the access to a virtual reality web browser called – wait for it – ‘Samsung Internet for Gear VR’.
As the blindingly obvious name would suggest, this app allows you to browse the web and enjoy almost any web content in virtual reality. It gives users the capability of streaming 3D and 360-degree videos (including those you’ll find on YouTube and Facebook), or can simply provide a more immersive experience for normal 2D videos.
Not only can you import your bookmarks and manage multiple tabs, but there is also voice recognition and “Gaze Mode” support, which allows you to select a menu simply by staring at it.
Available for free from the Oculus Store.
If you’re already rocking an Oculus Rift and want to start browsing web content in the virtual reality future you’ve been dreaming of, the MozVR project for Firefox or Chromium desktop browser has the potential to be a viable solution. Unfortunately at present, it’s really more of a concept demo than a fully-fledged browser.
Once you have installed the browser add-on and configured your Rift, you can enter Mozilla’s content portal to view a specially selected array of content displayed in a 3D gallery. While the content is currently rather limited, it serves as a good showcase for the kind of web-based VR experiences that web developers are keen to push.
Many of the virtual reality experiences in Mozilla’s portal are also viewable using an Android or iPhone and a Cardboard VR headset.
If you’re looking for a totally immersive way of consuming web content, JanusVR pulls out all the stops to turn boring pages on the internet into something all the more involved.
In the JanusVR world, links are portals and pages are rooms, all of which can be explored in a multiplayer experience alongside other avatars. Pictures embedded into the webpages you’re viewing hang on the dynamically generated environments (that can be edited directly within JanusVR), while special 3D content can be called up if the site includes special HTML tags.
It is currently nowhere near the promise of a stunning environment that’s a visual pleasure to explore, but if nothing else it’s a more exciting way of consuming internet content than most other alternatives have so far managed.
Download from JanusVR.
4. FullDive VR
If you like the idea of Samsung’s Gear VR but don’t have a compatible Samsung smartphone nor the budget to stretch to one of the pricey Gear VR headsets, then your next best bet is the FullDive VR 3D Browser.
This standard version of this free app allows you to simply browse the web in a VR environment, inputting text via an onscreen keyboard or voice command. Download the full version, and you’ll be given access to a wealth of other VR possibilities; it has to be said though, that none of these extras offer the most polished of experiences.
Download from Google Play.
5. Oculus Web Browser
If all you desire is simple VR browsing in a usable environment, the free Oculus Web Browser app for Windows is worth a go. You won’t find any particularly ground-breaking features, as this particular VR web browser was created by an E-learning company that’s exploring the possibilities of using similar interfaces in a VR classroom.
Still, the webkit browser supports HTML5 and renders web pages sharply, though you will need to download and install a third-party codec to watch any embedded HTML videos such as YouTube.
Grab it from the Oculus Store.
6. SteamVR Web Browser
Whether you’re about to get your paws on one of the hotly anticipated HTC Vive VR headsets, or have already plumped for the Oculus Rift, SteamVR offers a comprehensive 3D web browsing experience alongside the catalogue of VR-compatible games.
If you have opted into the client beta participation, the VR mode can now be accessed directly from the ‘View’ menu in Steam alongside your library of compatible games. Once in Steam’s Big Picture mode, you’ll find there’s a rather capable browser included that can play videos and display almost any web content around – including Adobe Flash.
Like all VR experiences, there’s still work to be done, but Steam’s solution is certainly the easiest for switching between gaming and web browsing without swapping in and out of other applications.
Visit the SteamVR community to find out more.