One of the features of Roblox is the wide accessibility of that platform: it can be accessed on PC, Mac, iOS and Android and also using Virtual Reality (VR) headsets such as the Meta Quest 2. Current headsets have their limitations, but over time we believe that VR will become one of the main ways that people choose to access metauni. To this end, we are in the process of building virtual reality support into all of the metauni tools, such as metaboard and metaorb.
As of late July 2023 Roblox is available on Meta Quest 2 and Quest Pro as a standalone app (that is, you no longer need to be tethered to a PC). Follow the instructions here to install from the App Lab. We continue to use the Nexus VR character model which allows us to use VR in first person (and therefore be able to write on metaboards, for example).
After you’ve installed Roblox, you’ll have to follow the in-game instructions to log in using another device. You’ll probably want to make sure that you’ve visited metauni on another device so The Rising Sea shows up as one of your recently visited experiences - it’s currently a bit cumbersome to find experiences in the VR client.
One of the reason that metauni events are more engaging than a Zoom lecture is the sense that the participants are sharing a 3D world. This sense is only heightened in VR. Here are some of the specific benefits we have noticed so far in our experiments:
Speakers in VR have more fun: as a VR speaker you get to use your hands, you can write at the board and then turn to look at the audience, you can see their questions as text bubbles above their head (if they aren’t using voice chat) and in general it feels much closer to the energy of an in-person lecture as compared to giving a lecture by writing on an iPad.
It’s more engaging for audiences even if they aren’t in VR: the avatar of a VR speaker is “alive” in a way that normal avatars aren’t, the hands move and the head tilts when the speaker is looking at something. When they are writing on a board you can see the motion of their hand and the pen. All of this adds a rich dynamic and physical layer to the presentation, which beats words simply appearing on a board while the speaker’s avatar stands stiffly by.
Necks are useful. A physical classroom is a rich information environment. It isn’t unusual in a math lecture to have four or six boards full of mathematics, all visible to the audience; in a difficult calculation or proof this context can be the difference between frustration and enlightenment. While in principle you can turn your camera to look at multiple boards while participating in metauni on a 2D screen, VR comes much closer to replicating the information richness of a physical room - just turn your neck and you can take in many more boards.
We expect that VR will be adopted by speakers first, and later by audiences (as the technology becomes more affordable and convenient).
Some of the current drawbacks of VR:
- While headsets are relatively inexpensive (on the order of AUD$600) compared to their historical prices, it’s a significant investment if on top of that you also need to buy a gaming PC (which is currently required to run Roblox in VR, see below).
- Wearing a headset for extended periods is not comfortable for all users.
- Being in VR cuts you off from written notes in a way that using metauni on an iPad does not.