You’re strapped into a virtual reality delight and you want to Google something. What do you do? Now you can use a web browser built and optimized specifically for the Samsung Gear VR.
Here’s what Samsung VP Chan-Woo Park had to say about the launch:
As a pioneer in the mobile VR industry, Samsung has continually worked to provide our users with a fully immersive mobile experience in the evolving world of virtual reality. As the demand for 360-degree, immersive video content rapidly rises – Samsung Internet for Gear VR further enriches the VR content ecosystem for our consumers, setting an industry standard for the VR viewing experience.
The Gear VR web browser beta is now available on the Oculus Store and includes support for voice commands and has an on-screen keyboard. It also supports both 360-degree and 3D video streaming, and any HTML5 video.
The browser has a “Gaze Mode” that will let you choose menus by simply looking at them. No tapping on the touchpad or controller necessary. You can also import and manage your bookmarks, the company says.
It’s a really important step for the consumerization of virtual reality, as most people head to a web browser for entertainment and information before they ever think about hitting up Netflix or any app store. Or even the TV. The questions that I get the most about VR is “can I do this?” or “can I do that?” The most mentioned this or that? Internet browsing.
The voice search, provided by Google, is pretty handy for searching for things. There are a few sites to get started with in your default bookmarks, Yahoo, Google, Facebook and YouTube with a tab for more recommended sites once you start browsing a bunch. The “Gaze Mode” is actually quite handy, and if you look at a specific item for a second or so, it’ll “click” the link for you automatically. This however can get annoying if you’re trying to read something with a bunch of hyperlinks…you might kick off a page you didn’t want to.
The browsing window is a little small and I’m not sure if you’re able to resize it. Sure, there’s a “zoom” feature, but I’d rather the window take up more real estate in my field of vision. The YouTube support is an outstanding addition to the Gear VR experience, especially for 360 degree videos.
So there you have it, even though this probably should have launched with the Gear VR. Either way, Samsung isn’t having any problems selling them.
Since the Oculus Store is developer-friendly, I hope that we get to see some tests and betas from other folks who have an idea of how the web should look in VR. That’s really when things will get fun. I’m looking at you, Google.