In the coming weeks Samsung is launching an update to its VR Internet browser with key new features. Paired with the upcoming Note 7 and its ability to connect to USB thumb drives, the new browser will let you pick videos to watch in VR from a drive plugged into the Gear VR. Also, while still in VR, you can clear your viewing history.
The features fall short of a proper private browsing mode in VR, but they are nevertheless welcome additions to a piece of software that, while cool, initially lacked usefulness for most people. The new updates are designed change that.
“Samsung Internet for Gear VR’s goal is to remove barriers so that more people would want to enjoy VR for a longer period of time,” said Laszlo Gombos, software architect on the project. “The upcoming release…will set the bar to a new standard on what it means to bring the open web to a mobile VR device.”
Samsung contributes to the Chromium open source browser project, so if any of the new features catch on with users there’s a chance it could be a preview of something more standardized coming to all VR browsers. One promising feature, for example, also lets website owners specify a background 360-degree photo for their pages. This article, for instance, when viewed in VR would look very similar except I could specify a 360-degree photo for the page that would show in the environment around you. The updated app will also improve text rendering and smooth the process for watching videos in various formats. So it requires less work to switch a video from being represented as a rectangle to wrapping around you in 360 degrees.
Some of the first environments utilize OTOY’s ORBX format, which was first used to create 360 degree environments submitted in last year’s Render The Metaverse competition. The company partnered with Oculus for the event and John Carmack was one of the judges behind it.
“Our focus has been to improve the quality of the rendering and input options, give more privacy controls to the user and support offline media consumption,” Gombos said. “Video consumption on the Internet has been steadily increasing in the last few years, and this trend is magnified for VR. Today a lot of engagement is centered around video consumption, so we spent a lot of time perfecting those flows so that…Samsung Internet for Gear VR is the best way to experience videos on the Internet in Gear VR.”
Disclosure: Samsung paid travel expenses for Upload to attend a media briefing related to this news.