One of the drawbacks of the Samsung Gear VR is that it's a bit of a walled garden — outside its social experiences, you're mostly limited to playing games and watching videos. Tomorrow, though, Samsung is launching a beta version of what it calls "Samsung Internet for Gear VR." It's a virtual reality web browser that seems aimed at letting people stream videos from places like YouTube without going through a dedicated app, while providing general internet access.
According to Samsung, the app "supports both 360-degree and 3D video streaming, as well as any HTML5 video from the web" — which hypothetically means users can either watch flat video or take advantage of YouTube's various VR options. It supports voice recognition and an on-screen keyboard, and it'll have a "gaze mode" that lets users simply stare at things to select them, instead of tapping the sometimes inconvenient side trackpad. Netflix's Gear VR app already uses an on-screen keyboard, and gaze-based selection is common in apps and games like Land's End. The app will also import bookmarks from the phone's non-VR mobile browser.
Web browsers and other desktop interfaces are a common experimental genre for VR developers, from Virtual Desktop — which translates the whole Windows interface into VR — to JanusVR, which turns the internet into a series of walkable rooms. Samsung's browser seems relatively simple, but if it works at all, it'll be one of the first steps toward creating a workable mobile VR platform.