One of the most fun applications of consumer VR has to be the humble VR chat room. There are a lot of options on the market now. Altspace nearly got closed down, but was saved at the last minute by Microsoft. Facebook has Spaces, which will likely start to take off once people can buy their standalone VR headset.
One of the big problems with many of these VR chat programs is that they will only work with certain headsets, which is a little like having a version of Skype that only works on some models of phone.
Mozilla might have the answer with their new VR chat application Hubs. At first glance, it looks a lot like what everyone else is offering, but there are a number of things under the hood which make this “experiment” stand out from the crowd.
Built on WebVR
The most important thing about Hubs is the platform it has been built on. The software is completely browser-based and uses the WebVR open standard. If you look at the official WebVR page, you’ll see the following headsets listed:
- Google Cardboard
- Oculus Go
- HTC Vive
- Gear VR
- Oculus Rift
- Windows Mixed Reality
Is there another platform with such wide support? None that we know of.
A New Contender
According to Mozilla’s Mixed Reality Blog, what’s available to the public right now is just a preview of Hubs, not the whole enchilada.
The most impressive thing at first glance is the ability to very quickly set up a meeting in VR with someone. It’s just as easy as sharing a DropBox or Google Docs link. They click on the link and are taken straight to where they need to go.
While you need a VR headset to use the service, with such a wide array of headsets it will be more and more likely that the other person will have one lying around.
This preview only has the most basic features, but Mozilla seem to have big plans for additional features. According to their official material, one key feature will be to create your own custom VR space with a simple set of tools.
Mozilla are also promising advanced avatar customization by trying to “reduce the barriers to avatar customization”. In other words, it will be easier to create the VR body you really want.
Finally, the folks at Mozilla want to integrate Hubs into other tools. While they didn’t mention any by name, we suppose popular chat programs such as Whatsapp, Skype and Hangouts might be on the radar.
It all sounds very promising, but you don’t have to wait to try it. Just head on over to the Hubs homepage and give it a go!