It was unfortunate news earlier this year as Mozilla announced would be discontinuing support and resourcing for their Immersive chat platform, Hubs. Aside from offering users the option to download their packages and host them on a private server, it seems that structural changes within Mozilla have brought about the end of their virtual 3D worlds, which we used successfully at Reality Learning.

At last year’s LearnX Summit, we were awarded Diamond for Best Pandemic/Emergency eLearning Project, working in collaboration with World Federation of Occupational Therapists (WFOT) on the online micro-credential Resettling Climate Migrants. The course was made up of a SCORM package authored using Articulate Rise, and included exercises in a Hubs environment we called ‘The Village’. Hubs allowed the cohort of occupation therapy (OT) learners to traverse a virtual space that simulated a new town for people to settle, requiring assessments to be made and problems to be solved for clients who have migrated due to the impacts of climate change. This was an innovative way to situate learners in an unfamiliar context, similar to the experiences that people resettling might experience, and learn to navigate the journey ‘in their shoes’ (albeit virtual ones).

While we are disappointed that Hubs is being discontinued, we are grateful that Mozilla provided such a user-friendly and free to access platform for interaction, immersion and storytelling. Alongside Hubs was Spoke, a 3D environment builder which allowed for even greater user-generated content and control over the look, feel and shape of virtual spaces. There are of course numerous tools and programs that provide this, though the ease of access and deployment will be hard to replace.

So with that, we are looking to other ways to generate experiences like this, without the significant time and cost implications that might typically be found in game engines and 3D modelling programs alike. There is a lot of  movement currently from Meta as they reshape their Horizon Worlds platform. Microsoft Mesh will be appealing to organisations using the M365 suite, however this is one of many applications that essentially seems limited to XR for meetings. There is promise from emerging platforms like Artsteps for virtual gallery spaces, and of course limitless potential going straight to the source like Unreal Engine, 3Ds Max, Sketchfab and more.

But for now we’ll say so long and thanks for all the Hubs, Mozilla. Until we meet again, in a virtual chatroom far, far away.