Next Firefox can detect computer orientation

In a new step to advance Web programming capabilities, Mozilla's next Firefox will be able to detect how you're tipping your computer.

The upcoming version 3.6 of Firefox will be able to tell if you're listing to starboard--and pass that information along to applications running in the browser.

That's because the browser will be able to detect the orientation of laptops and mobile devices equipped with accelerometers that can tell which way is down. The reason for the work: Web applications running in the browser will be able to use the information, useful for labyrinth-type games with virtual marbles rolling around boards, and any number of other gaming situations.

A demonstration application that shows Firefox adjusting a Web page graphic according to how a MacBook is tilted.
A demonstration application that shows Firefox adjusting a Web page graphic according to how a MacBook is tilted. Screenshot by Stephen Shankland/CNET

Mozilla evangelist Christopher Blizzard announced Firefox's coming orientation interface Monday.

"One new feature that we're including as part of Firefox 3.6 is support for web pages to access machine orientation information if it's available," Blizzard wrote. "Many modern MacBooks and ThinkPads contain devices and drivers that expose this information. We've added support for Linux, Macs and some ThinkPads where drivers and devices are available."

Mozilla is working on the technology for mobile devices, too, where orientation-aware games are a big deal.

The move is one of many by browser makers eager to transform their software from passive receptacles for showing Web sites to an active foundation for interactive applications. Firefox 3.6 is scheduled for beta testing shortly and final release later this year.

Yahoo has worked on browser-based orientation technology through its BrowserPlus software.

About the author

Stephen Shankland has been a reporter at CNET since 1998 and covers browsers, Web development, digital photography and new technology. In the past he has been CNET's beat reporter for Google, Yahoo, Linux, open-source software, servers and supercomputers. He has a soft spot in his heart for standards groups and I/O interfaces.

 

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