Janus VR Web Browser

Posted April 21, 2014 by Edmund in VR Software

In March, we took a look at the VR browser Firebox.

We expressed excitement  for the application’s potential to deliver on a vision of an open metaverse of  interconnected 3D spaces. At the time of writing, Firebox was on version 18.2  and already had lots of interesting experimental rooms to check out. Since  then, creator, James McCrae has released a number of updates – the latest  being 21.5 – The application has also been renamed Janus VR.

janus vr room layout 3This rebrand is a smart move – the previous association with an established  web-browser was arguably misleading. Not only because the project has no affiliation  with the web browser Firefox but also because thinking about Janus VR in terms  of visiting your favourite webpages is to grossly miss the point of the application’s potential. It is increasingly evolving into a unique platform for VR exploration experiences. Something which, for the user at least, bears  little resemblance to browsing the web, even if it still relies on web protocols.

Recent enhancements to Janus VR include increased support for 3D object  textures and greater flexibility in the sizing and positioning of doorways  between rooms. The most exciting new feature, though, is the introduction of  support for video files. These video files can even be wrapped around 3D  objects, although I can’t see this being used as anything more than a gimmick. Side-by-Side 3D video is also supported. One good example of this new video support is a VR Cinema room by OculusHut, complete with staggered seating, the whole room is under 200Kb in size, excluding the video stream which is an impressive feat in keeping room load times down. This cinema room is one of the default bookmarks for the latest version of Janus.  There is another video room now part of the default bookmarks – but I’ll talk about that later.

janus vr room layout 2Another of the new features is the ability to record ‘ghosts’ of your avatar  and then populate your rooms with those ghosts. This really brings Lee Nolan’s  VRSites hub to life, as you see what appears to be other users looking around  and going about their business. It acts as a powerful reminder that if Janus  could support multiple users existing in the same space together it would be a  significant enhancement of the experience. Of course, this kind of feature is pretty complex, so understandably it is not likely to be as high on the priorities list as further enhancement to room building options or even something like controller support.  These Ghosts are a pretty good stopgap, that gesture at what’s to come. They  also provide new layers of possibility for anyone interested in trying to  create a machinema-type narrative experience for Janus.

As for the state of the VR web itself, it is growing rapidly. The VRSites hub is begining to get huge, now spanning almost three stories. There does remain a curation problem, with too many doors being essentially dead. This could be potentially alleviated with ghosts being set to dart between only the most popular pages, to give the user an indication of quality.  User Nukemarine has been experimenting with different ways of handling text content in a 3D space – by splitting out paragraphs into billboards that you might walk past or even through, in a narrow corridor. There is a retro-looking ‘gameboy world’ and a minecraft room as well. Dr Who fans will definitely get a kick out of the the tardis, which is, of course, bigger on the inside.

janus vr room layoutWhen I first tried Firebox my first instinct was to tell the world about it  and my second instinct was to build a room for it. I am extremely pleased to  announce that Virtual Reality Reviewer now has a room in Janus VR. The room  contains 14 of our latest videos, which we’ll be updating weekly – so now you  can keep up to date on VR from within VR. Many thanks goes to James McCrae, who  helped us out with this room. You’ll find it bookmarked in the latest build, 21.5. Download Janus VR and check it out – it is the 3rd door from the right, on the bottom floor.  If you’re watching this video from within our Janus room then welcome, and please do give us your feedback.

If you’re interested in creating your own room for Janus VR then you should definitely head over to oculushut.com which has a ton useful and interesting of how-to videos. Janus VR is really coming along and if you haven’t already done so then you should definitely take a look. The passion that James McCrae and all of the enthusiasts display for this project is palpable and infectious. Oculus VR themselves should be paying attention to these guys, and maybe think about giving some of them jobs!

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About the Author

Edmund

Edmund Ward is a philosophy graduate who has focused on aesthetics and cultural critique in the information age. He grew up with 'the dream of the holodeck' and is prone to get very excited by new innovations in natural user-interfaces. Edmund is currently looking for volunteers to look after the glucose drip that will sustain his "fleshform" (as he insists on calling it) when he migrates permanently to VR.

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