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iOS Gets Mozilla’s Firefox-based WebXR Viewer App

Mozilla has significantly revamped its WebXR Viewer App for devices running on iOS, offering support for the newest WebXR standard version. This allows virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) experiences to run on iPad and iPhone from the web.

In 2017, Mozilla released its first WebXR Viewer on iOS. The version was simple and involved Apple’s ARKit tracking around an older WebXR standard version, to support web-based VR and AR experiences that can directly run within a browser. It was a pit-stop for developers so that they can test WebXR experiences on iOS devices instead of the default iOS browser Safari because it did not have WebXR support.

During the timespan from then to now, WebXR standard has been continuously evolving and Apple did not take interest in implementing the same on Safari. Mozilla now brings forth a more efficient version of the app which is also known as the WebXR Viewer 2.0.

The original application was simple. It was a single-page browser which would let you load a WebXR experience by pasting an URL. However, the latest version is worlds apart and is based on the Firefox iOS app, feeling, appearing and working almost like Firefox on iOS. This includes private browsing, history, tabbed browsing, etc.; almost feeling like a regular modern-day browser.

The WebXR Viewer app from Mozilla. Image source: mozilla

The WebXR Viewer 2.0 includes the newest WebXR standard version, which indicates that developers can implement the latest capabilities and state-of-the-art experimental features. While the app has been designed by focussing on developers and is more experimental, Principal Research Scientist as Mozilla’s XR team, Blair MacIntyre, said that one of the significant reasons behind remaking the app is to experiment with the WebXR implementation for probably future inclusion in the original iOS Firefox browser.

He said that they plan to continue experimenting with advanced augmented reality capabilities for WebXR, and discovering what experiments developers can pull off with those capabilities. Most AR use cases require integrating virtual content with things that make sense in the world. For fun, people can easily create superheroes or cute little dinosaurs but consumers looking for serious use like business applications need to track, sense and augment things, people and places. The key areas in which Mozilla focusses on working next is making the Immersive Web better using these abilities while also considering strict security and privacy of the users.

MacIntyre also mentions that they wanted to find out how WebXR implementation in Firefox would work, and this is why they moved the implementation into Firefox for iOS. Mozilla wants to deliver a fully-featured browser with WebXR support to iOS devices.

Apple may have not put efforts in supporting the older version of WebVR standard in the past but, lately, the company has started walking its way for web-based AR content. As for now, it is mostly limited to the AR Quick Look function, allowing Safari to export 3D models from a webpage and set them up into an augmented reality view with reduced interactive capacity.

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