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Introducing Hubs: A new way to get together

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Today, we’re excited to share a preview release of Hubs by Mozilla, a new way to get together online within Mixed Reality, right in your browser. Hubs is the first experiment we’re releasing as part of our Social Mixed Reality efforts, and we think it showcases the potential for the web to become the best, most accessible platform to bring people together around the world in this new medium.

What we're releasing

The preview of Hubs we are releasing today is a very early version that allows you to easily create web-based rooms to meet with others within Mixed Reality. Create a room with a single click, and then just share the link with someone. It’s that simple.

When they open the link on their phone or PC, they’ll join you in the room as an avatar.

Hello Hubs Avatar!

If they have a VR headset, they can enter the room in Mixed Reality. All with no app downloads, walled gardens, or content gatekeepers, and on any device you wish — and most importantly, through open source software that respects your privacy and is built on web standards. We'll be sharing a dedicated post with more details about our approach to ensuring privacy in Mixed Reality soon.

When using a Mixed Reality headset with Hubs, you’ll be able to interact online in a whole new way. Instead of through a screen, you will be spending time together in what feels like a real place. You can make eye contact, high five, laugh together, or just explore. It’s up to you, and it all happens right in your browser just like any other website.

We’ve included support for all VR devices available today, and will support the all-in-one devices coming out this year. We also have an eye towards WebXR, which will bring support for AR to Hubs. And even if you don’t have a headset yet, you can still join in on your PC or phone.

As part of this preview release, we’re including a set of robot-styled avatars and a number of scenes you can choose from when you create your room. Each of these is optimized to be able to run well on a variety of devices, from high end PCs to mobile phones. When in the room, you can see one another, move around, and pick up and throw virtual objects. And of course, you can hear each other’s voices with fully spatialized audio, so it sounds like you are in a real place.

We hope that you’ll try using this preview of Hubs to spend time with far away friends and family, or introduce it to your communities as a new way to get together. We’ve been extremely encouraged by the progress we’ve made so far, but we’re just getting started. If you’d like to be informed of improvements we make to Hubs, please join our mailing list.

Hanging out in Hubs

What's coming next

There are a number of efforts already underway to extend what you can do with Hubs, and we will be rolling out new releases on a regular basis. Here are some of the things we are working on:

  • Custom Spaces - As mentioned in our original announcement, we think creating your first virtual space to spend time in should be as easy as creating your first website. We’ve already shown off some early work towards a space construction kit to reducing the barrier to creating virtual spaces. Needless to say, spaces created with this kit will be designed to work well with Hubs, so that you can quickly share a link to have others meet you there. You will also be free to use your own fully custom GLTF scenes with Hubs.

  • Avatars and Identity - Mixed Reality provides an unprecedented opportunity to design things in a way that ensures people can express themselves on their own terms. As part of this, we think that you should always have as much control as possible over how you appear in Mixed Reality. We are working on ways to reduce the barriers to avatar customization so anyone can create an avatar that embodies how they want to be seen. We’ll have a lot more to say about this later in the year.

  • Existing Tools - We think Mixed Reality communication should complement, not replace, the existing ways we connect on the web, like chat and voice. We will be exploring ways to integrate Hubs with existing communications tools, so people can start experimenting with Mixed Reality as a new way to spend time together alongside the tools they already use.

  • Your Feedback - We are looking forward to gathering your ideas on what we can do to improve Hubs. If you have an idea or want to report an issue, you can submit a Github issue or join us in the #social channel on the WebVR Slack to join the conversation. You can also contact us at hubs@mozilla.com. If you’d like to be kept up to date on improvements we make to Hubs, sign up for our mailing list.