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The Future of Communication in the Metaverse

September 2, 2021

by Manuel Bronstein, Chief Product Officer

Product & Tech

Roblox’s vision for the metaverse is to create a platform for immersive co-experiences, where people can come together within millions of 3D experiences to learn, work, play, create, and socialize. Fostering a rich community built on shared experiences is central to this vision and a driving force for Roblox’s path forward. As we build an engaging and civil community where people form real connections, we are envisioning the future of communication both in the metaverse and beyond.

At Roblox, we believe that the metaverse is for everyone, and it follows that the communication capabilities we create must also be for everyone. Different users will have different communication needs based on their context. Our vision for communication has the potential to transcend digital boundaries; therefore we are being thoughtful and deliberate about making communication safe as we realize this vision. 

Three fundamental principles guide our approach to the future of communication on Roblox. First, communication capabilities must be rooted in the ways we communicate in the real world, especially when in an immersive 3D experience. For example, we raise our voice to reach someone far away, we whisper when we wish to be discreet, we alter our communication style depending on if we are alone or with others, and we use gestures and facial expressions to add nuance and emotion to our words. 

Second, the ways that we communicate in the metaverse are not bound by the limitations of physical reality. When you’re in an experience on Roblox, we envision that you will be able to communicate with others in the experience in the same way you speak with someone at the park. Simultaneously, you will be able to have conversations with friends elsewhere on the platform. For instance, you may have a three-way conversation with someone next to you in an experience and with another friend on the bus on their way home in the real world. Those dialogues will be able to continue uninterrupted as you move from experience to experience or as your conversation partners come and go from the experience you are in. You will also be able to seamlessly shift between modes of communication, from text, to voice, to video, to immersive. In fact, different participants in the conversation may choose the most convenient mode of communication depending on their context.

Third, maintaining a digitally civil and safe platform is paramount. Virtual communication should be governed by the same restraint we exercise in the real world. Context is critical here: in reality, you may be less filtered in a private conversation with your friend—whether it be a text, phone conversation, or in-person—than a group conversation at a public venue such as a restaurant. The same will hold true on Roblox, which will offer 1:1 communication, communication with small groups and close friends, and public communication. 

Virtual communication will also be subject to the same forms of natural moderation that exist in the real world. To continue with our restaurant example, if you yell at someone during that public meal, it’s likely that people around you will ask you to quiet down or, depending on how offensive you are, you’ll be asked to leave. There will be similar consequences on Roblox: our community will be able to self-regulate and flag a user that is not adhering to community standards, and that user may be removed from an experience or lose speaking privileges. The metaverse is an extension and augmentation of reality and the standards for civility that we hold ourselves to in the real world must carry over to the digital. 

These principles have led to today’s release of Spatial Voice as an invitation-only beta to selected members of our developer community. We hope to collaborate with our community to evolve Spatial Voice to make it realistic, safe, and easy for developers to integrate across all Roblox experiences. With Spatial Voice, Roblox creators will begin to test developing experiences where conversations can happen in a realistic way, mirroring how we listen and respond to the world around us each day. 

As the metaverse continues to grow and bring people together in new, unexpected, and exciting ways, Roblox anticipates that communication will have an increasingly integral role. We are embarking on this long-term vision for the future of communication because it allows us to be measured and thoughtful in our approach. This will enable us to introduce capabilities that serve the needs of the Roblox community, uphold our standards for digital civility, and contain the necessary safeguards to protect users of all ages. We believe that a mix of the right communication features and safety measures will further elevate the shared experiences of the metaverse, and we are eager to partner with our community to bring these features to life.