Roblox Adds Ambitious Voice Chat System That Aims To Replicate Real Life And Go Beyond It

As part of its efforts to create a metaverse, Roblox has rolled out a voice chat system that goes beyond what's possible in physical reality.

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Like many technology companies these days, Roblox Corp. is attempting to create a metaverse with Roblox, and communication will play a big role in that vision. To that end, the company has announced that a new voice chat system called "Spatial Voice" is rolling out now in the game by invitation only as part of a beta program.

The idea of Spatial Voice is to have a voice chat system that allows players to have conversations that "happen in a realistic way, mirroring how we listen and respond to the world around us each day." The overarching goal is to make Spatial Voice a "realistic, safe, and easy" tool for players to use "across all Roblox experiences," Roblox chief product officer Manuel Bronstein said in a blog post.

"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," Bronstein said. "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."

Bronstein said Roblox's belief is that the metaverse should be for everyone, and as such, it should offer communication capabilities that everyone can use.

"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," Bronstein said.

There are three principles that Roblox is looking to follow with respect to voice communication through Roblox, the first being that communication should be "rooted in the ways we communicate in the real world." As an example, Bronstein said people yell when someone is far away, whisper when they're trying to be quiet, and use gestures and facial expressions to add further nuance. The second principle Roblox is following is that communication in the metaverse should not be limited to what's possible in 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," Bronstein said. "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."

And third, Bronstein said Roblox is spending time and attention on ensuring communication in the game is civil and safe.

"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," Bronstein said. "The same will hold true on Roblox, which will offer 1:1 communication, communication with small groups and close friends, and public communication."

Another example that Bronstein mentioned was how Roblox's communication tools should have "natural moderation" built into them. As an example, if you were to scream at someone when eating dinner in a public restaurant, other people might ask you to quiet down, or the owners might kick you out of the establishment.

"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," Bronstein said. "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."

Roblox is one of the most popular games on Earth, boasting a massive 42 million daily players. Roblox Corp. became a publicly traded company earlier this year, and it's now valued at more than $47 billion, which is bigger than Electronic Arts.

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