23.3 C
New York
Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Roblox Builds Out Its Metaverse Vision With Video Chat

If you want to see what the future of the internet looks like, peek over your kid’s shoulder while they’re using Roblox. The online platform is filled with free games, experiences, and social hangouts that are designed and built by its users. And those users are often children; Roblox has 65 million daily active users, and around half of them are under 17.

But as Roblox grows, its users are growing up, and the company is making moves to appeal to the changing interests of its aging audience. This week, the company announced it’s bringing animated video chat to its virtual world. The new feature aims to combine the interactions of apps like Zoom and FaceTime with the creative energy of a video game environment. The addition of video chat could also convince older users to buy a premium Roblox subscription or invest in Robux, the platform’s digital currency.

This week on Gadget Lab, we dive into the virtual world of Roblox and how the company's offerings are expanding to attract older users, evolve its culture, and create its own version of the metaverse.

Show Notes

Read Lauren’s story about Roblox introducing animated video chats to its platform. WIRED’s Will Knight has more about how Roblox is using generative AI. Follow all of WIRED’s coverage of Roblox and other video games.

Recommendations

Lauren recommends getting rid of all your extra cables and watching the show Jury Duty on Amazon Prime. Mike recommends Andrew Hickey’s podcast A History of Rock Music in 500 Songs and ordering bitters and soda at a bar when you don’t want an alcoholic drink.

Lauren Goode is @LaurenGoode. Michael Calore is @snackfight. Bling the main hotline at @GadgetLab. The show is produced by Boone Ashworth (@booneashworth). Our theme music is by Solar Keys.

How to Listen

You can always listen to this week's podcast through the audio player on this page, but if you want to subscribe for free to get every episode, here's how:

If you're on an iPhone or iPad, open the app called Podcasts, or just tap this link. You can also download an app like Overcast or Pocket Casts, and search for Gadget Lab. If you use Android, you can find us in the Google Podcasts app just by tapping here. We’re on Spotify too. And in case you really need it, here's the RSS feed.

Transcript

Note: This is an automated transcript, which may contain errors.

Michael Calore: Lauren.

Lauren Goode: Mike.

Most PopularGearThe 15 Best Electric Bikes for Every Kind of Ride

Adrienne So

GearThe Best Lubes for Every Occasion

Jaina Grey

GearThe iPhone Is Finally Getting USB-C. Here’s What That Means

Julian Chokkattu

Gear11 Great Deals on Sex Toys, Breast Pumps, and Smart Lights

Jaina Grey

Michael Calore: How much time would you say, you have put into making your Roblox avatar look exactly like you?

Lauren Goode: Like 67 seconds tops, maybe? I mean, I haven't really put any time into it. Have you?

Michael Calore: Sort of? Not really. I mean, mine looks nothing like me right now. He has purple skin and a block shaped head. But if I wanted to actually make him look like me, I would have to spend hundreds of Robux and I don't have hundreds of Robux.

Lauren Goode: Oh, you mean you don't keep your Robux in your digital wallet, right next to your polka dollars and your crypto?

Michael Calore: No.

Lauren Goode: Your other make-believe money.

Michael Calore: No. Digital currencies and microtransactions feel a little surreal to me.

Lauren Goode: Well, 65 million people every day seem to think this is very real. And by people, I mean a lot of young people, much younger than us.

Michael Calore: Sounds terrifying, but we should talk about it.

Lauren Goode: We totally should. Let's do it.

[Gadget Lab intro theme music plays]

Michael Calore: Hi, everyone. Welcome to Gadget Lab. I'm Michael Calore. I'm a senior editor at WIRED.

Lauren Goode: And, I'm Lauren Goode. I'm a senior writer at WIRED.

Michael Calore: So today, we are talking about Roblox. The platform where you can play games created by other users is extremely popular.

Lauren Goode: Extremely popular.

Michael Calore: Over 160 million people visit Roblox's virtual world every month, and around half of all Americans under the age of 16 are Roblox users. Even though Roblox is already ubiquitous among younger users, it is aging up. This week, the company announced that it's adding animated video chat to the list of experiences that it offers. And it's doing so, not only to attract more adults, but also to give its hardcore fans a reason to stick around as they grow older, as we all do.

Lauren Goode: As is the natural order of things.

Michael Calore: As it is. I think we should start by explaining what is Roblox, and why are the kids so addicted to it? Why are we talking about it on Gadget Lab?

Lauren Goode: Well, you hinted at this a little bit. Roblox isn't just a game or a game app. It's a platform we use, and we hear that word a lot. It's filled with tons of user generated games, and these are not big Epic Level One action adventure games. These are often slightly more casual games, and they can be played on pretty much any device, your phone, your PC and iPad. And because they're user generated, the quality of the game really depends on the creator or the studio that is making the game and putting it on Roblox. So the vibe varies, but it looks and feels generally like it's for kids. And they're not all necessarily games either. They could be hangout spaces, but they have gamified elements. So, I started playing around with Roblox a little bit this week. To backtrack a bit, I had seen Roblox before, but mostly when I was, hyper-specific scenario, visiting friends in Brooklyn, New York who have small kids. And their kids would say, "Look, I'm playing Roblox on my iPad and look at this game, and this is one of my favorite games." And, I would observe them a little bit. And then I had a firsthand experience of understanding the drug that is Roblox, when I gave one of those said children a gift card for Christmas, and I became his favorite person in the world. But this week I started to dive into it a little bit myself, and I found that I could just hang out in this virtual hotel room. I mean, I literally went through a check-in process at a little virtual hotel, and I got a breadstick from a bakery, and I sat there in my hotel room by myself, eating a breadstick in the virtual world. And it was kind of nice, actually.

Most PopularGearThe 15 Best Electric Bikes for Every Kind of Ride

Adrienne So

GearThe Best Lubes for Every Occasion

Jaina Grey

GearThe iPhone Is Finally Getting USB-C. Here’s What That Means

Julian Chokkattu

Gear11 Great Deals on Sex Toys, Breast Pumps, and Smart Lights

Jaina Grey

Michael Calore: Just like real life.

Lauren Goode: Quite nice, yeah, just as I do in real life when I'm traveling for a reporting trip. You've played Roblox, right?

Michael Calore: I have, yeah. I found that most of the experiences do feel like pretty amateur, right? They're very haphazard, very manically designed. There's a lot of visual elements and a lot of structural elements that just feel kind of annoying, and don't really feel like they make the world a better place to hang out in. But then every once in a while, you encounter one that has a sort of professional sheen, that feels like it has been built up. And it made me wonder, are all of the experiences user generated or are some of them made by companies, who exist to make Roblox games?

Lauren Goode: Yeah, I think it varies, like the size of the studio. That could be independent creators or it could be an entire studio that has made an experience. Or it could be a brand, because I think we're going to talk about how Roblox makes money. But you could have a brand like Gucci create a Gucci themed or branded experience in Roblox, and it's marketing for them, and it's an experience for the user. And also, people will buy really expensive virtual goods in that virtual, I don't even know if I'd call it a store. Like a Disneyland of brands. I don't know. But yeah, so the slickness and the quality of the game depends a lot on the maker.

Michael Calore: OK. So yes. How do they make money? We know about Robux.

Lauren Goode: Robux. I have said Roblux, I have said Robust. It is Robux with an X.

Michael Calore: Digital currency.

Lauren Goode: Yes. Digital currency. Yeah. So there is a Roblox Premium, which is a membership model, which ranges from I think five to $20 a month. And if you decide to join that, then you automatically get more Robux when you renew each month, or you can just be a free to play player like you and I have been, as we've been poking around in there. And then over time, we would use real dollars to purchase Robux, which is the digital currency. And, Robux is the overwhelming source of revenue for Roblox, the company. The company refers to these purchases as bookings, and this is their monetization engine. People will actually spend really good money to buy virtual goods in Roblox, and it tends to be, as you might expect, that the older a user gets, the more purchasing power that they have. And so, they're more inclined to buy things in Roblox.

Michael Calore: I see. So the platform launched way back in 2006, very much like a game centered experience, but as it's grown, it's become more of a social experience. As you mentioned, there are a lot of hangouts. There are sort of opportunities to meet and greet other people. During the Covid-19 pandemic, there was this big explosion in popularity, because everybody was isolating. And, there were people protesting the killing of George Floyd on Roblox. There were women's marches on Roblox. It became a virtual world, like a Second Life.

Most PopularGearThe 15 Best Electric Bikes for Every Kind of Ride

Adrienne So

GearThe Best Lubes for Every Occasion

Jaina Grey

GearThe iPhone Is Finally Getting USB-C. Here’s What That Means

Julian Chokkattu

Gear11 Great Deals on Sex Toys, Breast Pumps, and Smart Lights

Jaina Grey

Lauren Goode: Yeah, I was just going to say, like Second Life. Yeah.

Michael Calore: Like a hangout.

Lauren Goode: Oh, God. Like us olds, we're like, "Yeah, like Second Life kids, back in the day." Yes.

Michael Calore: So I think this social aspect of it is really important. There's chat in there, like you would find alongside a YouTube video, a typical sort of juvenile ribbing happening. But what is the company doing to sort of expand that social sphere?

Lauren Goode: This is a good question. And speaking of chat, in one of my Roblox experiences this week, I couldn't figure out how to navigate somewhere. And I was asking people in the chat, other game players who I don't know, they're strangers, but I'm asking in the chat, "How do I do this, and what about this?" And at one point they said, am I too old for this? Just really putting it out there into the world. And someone DM-ed me and said, "How old are you?" I told them my age, and all they replied was, dot. That's it. Just like a period. I was like, "What does this mean?" I'm frantically googling, what does it mean if someone just replies with a period? Is that an affirmative? Is that a yes? I think it was a yes. Anyway, with some further googling, I was able to get myself out of the navigation jam that I was in on Roblox. With regards to what's new with those social elements, last fall, Roblox enabled audio chatting. You have to request permission. You can't just start chatting with a stranger. And the new thing that they're going to be showing off this week at their developer's conference, right around the time we're releasing this podcast, is a 3D Connect video platform. And this isn't going to be launching right away. Their goal is to launch it by the end of the year. But the idea is that you will be able to initiate or accept a video call from another Roblox user. You see their 3D avatar, they see your 3D avatar, you see facial expressions and some body movements. You do have legs on these avatars, which is a big question mark with some apps in the Metaverse. And you can enter this virtual private space, that is supposed to feel like you're in kind of an intimate space together. You're at the beach or in a forest or some other, I don't know, a DJ booth. I'm quite literally making it up. The DJ booth just came to me. That's a great idea. Roblox should build it. But you have the opportunity to socialize with people as you are in this virtual universe. And the incentive for Roblox seems clear, right? They want you hanging out in Roblox beyond just playing the games, because that converts to people spending more time there. Engagement is good for their app. It converts eventually to dollars, to those bookings, people using Roblox to buy virtual experiences. And then it creates more of an atmosphere, I think, eventually for other brands to get into and say like, "OK, this is a space where people hang out." The wild thing, when I spoke to Roblox CEO David Baszucki, he indicated that he just thinks this is going to be a video chat platform that people like us use. Like at WIRED. We might just be hanging out in Roblox one of these days.

Most PopularGearThe 15 Best Electric Bikes for Every Kind of Ride

Adrienne So

GearThe Best Lubes for Every Occasion

Jaina Grey

GearThe iPhone Is Finally Getting USB-C. Here’s What That Means

Julian Chokkattu

Gear11 Great Deals on Sex Toys, Breast Pumps, and Smart Lights

Jaina Grey

Michael Calore: Not using Zoom or Google Meet?

Lauren Goode: Sure. I mean, why not? We're all just living in Second Life for the new age, Roblox. Why not just meet there if we have something to discuss? He didn't say specifically, "Oh, and we're rolling out an enterprise grade platform for," blah, blah, blah, the Workdays and the Oracles of the world to use, or Salesforce or whatnot. But the idea was that, everyone uses some form of video chat these days. Whether you're using FaceTime, whether you're using Roblox, whether you're playing Fortnite with your friends and you're all hearing each other talk over a game. And so, why not make that a little bit more official and roll out this experience that's like, "Yes, people want to connect. Let's let them connect."

Michael Calore: Right. I'm almost scared to ask this question, but is the company doing any … You're already rolling your eyes. What's the company doing with generative AI?

Lauren Goode: Oh, yes. Bingo. All of you playing Bingo right now, mark it off on your card. Of course, there's a generative AI strategy. Don't you have a generative AI strategy?

Michael Calore: I do.

Lauren Goode: I knew you were going to ask this question. They're also working on generative AI technology. This is going to let you build stuff in Roblox much faster. So, you can type in something like, "Spin up a magical fairytale forest for my friend and I to chat in." And that can happen theoretically in seconds. I often feel like we need to caveat this when we talk about AI, particularly on a WIRED podcast because we're so deeply and nerdy about this stuff. But AI is used in many, many other forms with a technology like Roblox or any other gaming platform. Even something like, making it so as you're video chatting that you are not experiencing latency, or the way that they actually use machine learning to try to flag problematic words or phrases as people are chatting, so they can flag abuse on the platform. Or even the ways that they potentially are keeping infrastructure costs down, as they build up stuff like this more and more, and more. And then they have to think about optimization. It's a lot of AI, but the generative AI stuff, which is the hype phase that we've all been talking about, yes, they will be doing stuff around that, too.

Michael Calore: Nice.

Lauren Goode: So that's going to make you want to use it more, right? Like a Gen X-er, you're like, "Yeah, what's keeping me off of Roblox? Lack of gen AI. That's really it."

Michael Calore: I will say that, when I think about building a DJ booth in Roblox, it sounds like a lot of work. And if there's a tool that can make that easier for me to do, then I'm all for it.

Most PopularGearThe 15 Best Electric Bikes for Every Kind of Ride

Adrienne So

GearThe Best Lubes for Every Occasion

Jaina Grey

GearThe iPhone Is Finally Getting USB-C. Here’s What That Means

Julian Chokkattu

Gear11 Great Deals on Sex Toys, Breast Pumps, and Smart Lights

Jaina Grey

Lauren Goode: Would you host a Phish fan concert in Roblox?

Michael Calore: I'd play reggae music.

Lauren Goode: Nice. OK. But seriously though, what if you knew that you could get an audience of, what would a typical audience be at one of your shows?

Michael Calore: What? Like my band?

Lauren Goode: Yeah.

Michael Calore: I don't know. Seven people?

Lauren Goode: I was there, make it eight. OK. But what if you theoretically could get a hundred people listening to you do a DJ set in Roblox? Would you do it?

Michael Calore: Oh, sure. Yeah.

Lauren Goode: That's a pretty low bar.

Michael Calore: Even if seven or eight people were there, I would still do it.

Lauren Goode: Well, there was that website back in 2010-ish that all the cool kids were using, Turntable.fm.

Michael Calore: Oh, God. Yeah. That was so annoying.

Lauren Goode: Why was it? I loved it.

Michael Calore: Because people have terrible taste.

Lauren Goode: Well.

Michael Calore: Generally.

Lauren Goode: It wasn't super curated, but you could go into specific rooms where you knew people were going to be there, who were good DJs, who had good taste.

Michael Calore: Yes.

Lauren Goode: Discriminating tastes.

Michael Calore: Yes, but mostly it was just like going out in any big city where it's like the music is insufferable. Anyway, we're getting off-topic.

Lauren Goode: Sure, we're getting off-topic, but I think what we're describing is, the fundamentals of Roblox is, it's not a new phenomenon. That idea that people want to meet in virtual spaces and connect that way and share art and ideas, or even just have chats, that's not new. Roblox has just provided a space for people to make and share games. And it has been really, really attractive to a younger generation of users on the internet. And those people are, they're growing up, to your point earlier. They're getting older, like the rest of us. And so Roblox has to not only make its technology platform more robust as technology advances, but also figure out ways to age up with those users.

Michael Calore: Well said. Let's take a quick break and we'll come right back with more.

[Break]

Michael Calore: So Roblox is a virtual world. You make an avatar, you run around in a 3D landscape, you interact with other people's avatars. Maybe you have a video chat with somebody else's avatar. This sounds just like the Metaverse.

Lauren Goode: Ah, the Metaverse. Check that off in your Bingo card. We already covered generative AI. Yeah, I asked everyone I spoke to at Roblox a series of questions, such as, "Is this just the Metaverse? Do you consider Roblox to be the Metaverse?" And the answer was, "Sure, if the Metaverse is defined as a set of connected three-dimensional social experiences that you use a computing device to port into, then sure." But they don't seem to want to use the name or the word, the Metaverse. And the Metaverse, as we know it, is a phrase that was coined long ago in the 1990s by the author Neal Stephenson, but it has been co-opted by Meta, which literally bet the company name on it. And so now I think that when people think of the Metaverse, that's what they think of. But there are a lot of smart people who cover this world of social, and AR and VR, and media and entertainment who say the Metaverse already exists, and it is platforms like Epic, Fortnite or Roblox.

Most PopularGearThe 15 Best Electric Bikes for Every Kind of Ride

Adrienne So

GearThe Best Lubes for Every Occasion

Jaina Grey

GearThe iPhone Is Finally Getting USB-C. Here’s What That Means

Julian Chokkattu

Gear11 Great Deals on Sex Toys, Breast Pumps, and Smart Lights

Jaina Grey

Michael Calore: Nice. So what is the latest news with Meta's Metaverse?

Lauren Goode: That's another good question. So, Roblox is on The Meta Quest now.

Michael Calore: Oh, they are?

Lauren Goode: So you can access it that way. Yeah, that's relatively new. But Meta itself had said previously that it planned to invest more than $10 billion annually in the Metaverse. We have talked about this a lot on this podcast. By some reports last year, it exceeded that $10 billion investment. And then in early 2023, Mark Zuckerberg reframed the company's efforts around, quote, unquote, "Efficiency." They announced layoffs, they cut out middle managers, they started focusing more on AI, like a lot of tech companies, and they scaled back a bit on Metaverse. But I would say that AR and VR experiences, plenty of people, big people, I mean, tech companies are still trying to make that happen. It's like Fetch. They're still trying to make it happen. Meta's experiences hinge a lot on the hardware. I mean, yes, it is a social platform. They have Horizon Worlds. They want to be an app store for these experiences, but I think they're known for the Meta Quest, which we write about at WIRED and the Meta Quest Pro, which we wrote about last year. And they've shown off some prototypes of other hardware that goes in the body and that sort of thing. Whereas, there is something about Fortnite and Roblox where you're just pick up the iPad and go. You can take it with you on the road. You can play it before bed at night. It's like, there's a less friction to experiencing that version of being online and being in a virtual world.

Michael Calore: And the Metaverse really hinges on this feeling of presence. This feeling of when you log in, you are there with the other person. And I think it's funny that so many of the experiences that we're experimenting with now, from all the different companies that are doing this, they involve some sort of person to person interaction that uses avatars. So it's a bit of a mental leap to really feel as though you're in a space with somebody, if what you're looking at is not that person. It's maybe like a cartoonish digital representation of that person, or it's a seven-foot tall unicorn with buff arms and a spiked collar.

Lauren Goode: I would watch that unicorn DJ. Yes, if you're thinking of making that your avatar.

Michael Calore: But you know what I mean? People can be whoever they want in the Metaverse, and that sort of makes the presence thing harder to grasp.

Lauren Goode: See, it's funny that you say, that because I agree with you, and I think that that is generational. I think that we are a little bit obsessed with, or at least attached to photorealism, and looking at real people's faces and their facial expressions, and their emotions, and connecting with people that way. And I think that younger generations, and we ran a great story recently on WIRED.com that talked about this with regards to TikTok filters. And it was a surprisingly positive take, I think on some of the filters that are really altering people's appearances, because I tend to see them as something that creates an inauthentic experience, a fake or surreal experience. Other people see them as a form of creativity, a form of expression, of trying on different identities, and being accepting of other people's identities too. If you're someone who's uncomfortable being on the internet and showing your real presence, your real face, an avatar is a way to hide that. And so, I do think that generationally that there may be some younger people who are embracing more of the avatar mode than we are. I mean, I also think, and Roblox has said that eventually they think they will get to photorealism, that's years down the line. And getting to photorealism where you're in the Metaverse, and you're looking at a real person and there's no latency or glitches, that takes a lot of tech. It takes a lot of bandwidth. But for now, they're leaning on the avatars. So when I think about this in a business context, are we going to take a WIRED Zoom meeting someday on Roblox with our 3D avatars? I mean, maybe not, but maybe so. Maybe at that point, they'll be giving us the golden parachutes and saying, see your way to the door. And all the young people here, first of all, they'll say, "What's a magazine?" And they'll say, "Great. We're hopping into Roblox now, and chatting with our avatars."

Most PopularGearThe 15 Best Electric Bikes for Every Kind of Ride

Adrienne So

GearThe Best Lubes for Every Occasion

Jaina Grey

GearThe iPhone Is Finally Getting USB-C. Here’s What That Means

Julian Chokkattu

Gear11 Great Deals on Sex Toys, Breast Pumps, and Smart Lights

Jaina Grey

Michael Calore: I can't wait to read the corporate guidelines that outline, what is allowed and what is not allowed in your avatar for the workplace.

Lauren Goode: Oh, it's open season, everything's allowed.

Michael Calore: Or, do you think that they would make them for us and we can't change them, and they would lock permissions?

Lauren Goode: Can you imagine a world in which Anna Wintour is a creative director over all of our avatars?

Michael Calore: I can.

Lauren Goode: I imagine you can.

Michael Calore: I can imagine that. It's not too far off, I'm sure.

Lauren Goode: I would be the best dressed I've ever been in my life.

Michael Calore: Same, fully. It all depends on how much money the company wants to spend on Robux, so that we could outfit ourselves properly. Right?

Lauren Goode: Right. It would all come down to the Robux, yeah.

Michael Calore: And I mean really, it all does come down to the Robux, like whether or not this succeeds, hinges on whether or not it's going to make them money.

Lauren Goode: And this is a really good question, because the point that you're making, I think about the Metaverse is that it's social. And what we've seen over the past 20 something years of social media is that it is primarily advertising supported. I can't think of, maybe you can, but I can't think of a subscription, a big subscription social network. You could argue that there are small ones, like small groups and communities, or an app like Strava or something that some people consider a social network. But for the most part, social is supported by advertising in the world of the internet. Roblox is primarily funded by these Robux, people willing to buy virtual currency. But I do wonder if over time they will get maybe pressure from shareholders or internally, the company may decide, "We need to do more advertising." And that may also be part of the bigger picture of the audience getting older too, because there are going to be certain limitations on how much you can advertise to children, to kids. But also, it comes back to that idea that once people get a little bit older, they have more purchasing power, a bit more disposable income, they can make the direct decisions about what they're buying versus using their parents' credit card. And so, I do wonder if we're going eventually going to see more and more advertising on Roblox, but I don't know the answer to that.

Michael Calore: Billboards.

Lauren Goode: Probably. Yeah. I mean, those might already exist, and I just haven't spent enough time in there to figure that out. But yeah, billboards.

Michael Calore: Here's an idea.

Lauren Goode: Tickets to events.

Michael Calore: You can open a nightclub and you can have any music you want in your nightclub, but they insert an ad like every three songs. And everybody who's in the nightclub has to sit through the ad.

Most PopularGearThe 15 Best Electric Bikes for Every Kind of Ride

Adrienne So

GearThe Best Lubes for Every Occasion

Jaina Grey

GearThe iPhone Is Finally Getting USB-C. Here’s What That Means

Julian Chokkattu

Gear11 Great Deals on Sex Toys, Breast Pumps, and Smart Lights

Jaina Grey

Lauren Goode: There might be a version of that already. Is it Spotify

Michael Calore: I mean-

Lauren Goode: It's free Spotify. That's what it is. We're really good at reinventing the wheel here.

Michael Calore: We are.

Lauren Goode: We should, yeah.

Michael Calore: I'm very good.

Lauren Goode: We've already reinvented Friendster, Second Life and now, Spotify.

Michael Calore: I'm very good at being three years behind the news, just in case you didn't know. So one thing that is exciting to me about the Roblox version of the Metaverse is that it relies so heavily on user generated content. And this is something that is not specifically part of the Meta plan or of the Apple Vision Pro plan. I think the fewer gatekeepers that you have around the types of experiences that you can have in a virtual world, is better for the health of the virtual world, right? Because then you get really weird stuff, and then you also get people interested who don't have the technical ability or maybe don't have the funding, to go through all of the hoops that you need to do, in order to get something on one of the other platforms.

Lauren Goode: Yes. But that's a delicate balance too. And particularly, as we're having bigger conversations about content moderation on some of the big platforms and abuse, misinformation, manipulation, Roblox is susceptible to all of that, too. So yes, when you have any user generated platform, whether it's Roblox or whether it's YouTube, for example, part of the essence of that platform is going to be the weirdness, to use your word, the art, the creativity. Just different perspectives that people have, that make a platform so interesting. On the other hand, people can get incredibly abusive or hateful, and spread misinformation and disinformation. And even in the short time that I was on Roblox this week, I noticed a couple of folks chatting in the sidebar, and one was effectively bullying the other, calling them ugly and illiterate. And yeah, those are the kinds of things that happen when you're on any kind of social network. And the way that the law is, that we could have a whole podcast on section 230, but the way that the law is currently structured in the United States is such that the platforms don't have liability for harms that may cross their platforms. This is section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which we've talked about before, and we talk about a lot in general, because a lot of people see it as an outdated sort of CODA for the internet. And so there's a little bit of, let it live, let it exist, let it flow out there when it comes to user generated platforms. But you also have to have really smart and effective content moderation when you're swelling to something the size of Roblox, and also when there are lots of kids using it.

Most PopularGearThe 15 Best Electric Bikes for Every Kind of Ride

Adrienne So

GearThe Best Lubes for Every Occasion

Jaina Grey

GearThe iPhone Is Finally Getting USB-C. Here’s What That Means

Julian Chokkattu

Gear11 Great Deals on Sex Toys, Breast Pumps, and Smart Lights

Jaina Grey

Michael Calore: Yeah, very true. So maybe they could just hire a bunch of people and end unemployment in the United States?

Lauren Goode: Or maybe AI is going to fix it all for us.

Michael Calore: Oh boy.

Lauren Goode: Yeah.

Michael Calore: This is the future.

Lauren Goode: Yeah. The future we live in. We live in the future right now.

Michael Calore: Let's go into the future, take a break and come back with our recommendations.

Lauren Goode: Sounds great.

[Break]

Michael Calore: All right, here's our third segment. We get to tell you about things that we're enjoying that you might enjoy too. Lauren, you're going to go first. You're in the hot seat.

Lauren Goode: It's just me and you.

Michael Calore: I know.

Lauren Goode: Do we get extras because it's just me and you?

Michael Calore: Sure.

Lauren Goode: OK.

Michael Calore: Yes.

Lauren Goode: My first recommendation is to get rid of all those cables. You don't need those cables.

Michael Calore: You mean like cable television?

Lauren Goode: Just cables. No, no, no. OK.

Michael Calore: Like lightning cables?

Lauren Goode: This is not about cable versus, yeah, like cables. I was partly inspired by an Instagram Reel that popped across my feed, of a guy sitting there sipping coffee. And the caption says, "Just want to let y'all know, I got rid of all those old cables two years ago, and I'm still doing OK." But I also was in the process of moving recently and had the opportunity to just purge a ton of cables. Cables for speakers I no longer use, cables for decades-old laptops, cables for a phone I haven't used in eight years, and I just finally got rid of most of them, and I feel pretty good about it. So get rid of your cables. Don't hold on. Go through, if you can, the proper e-waste process. You can often look up where an e-waste recycling center is by you. Look at their rating. And Mike is giving me eyebrows right now, just so y'all know, because this is something that he talks to me about quite a bit. When I say, "I'm just going to get rid of all these gadgets. I don't need all this tech." And he says, "Make sure that you know where they're going downstream." They're going to where they're actually going to get recycled.

Michael Calore: Due diligence on vendors, people.

Lauren Goode: Yeah. That's my first one. My second one is in honor of our excellent producer Boone, who could not be here in studio this week. And he gave me permission to share this because Boone recently got Covid. He's doing OK, but he got Covid and he thinks he got Covid from jury duty. The man was doing his civic duty. And let me tell you something, Boone is a super nice guy. He's a super principled guy, and he really was committed to doing his civic duty. And you know what he got from that? Covid. You know what Ronald Gladden got from this? From doing that exact thing, being a standup guy who went to jury duty? $100,000.

Most PopularGearThe 15 Best Electric Bikes for Every Kind of Ride

Adrienne So

GearThe Best Lubes for Every Occasion

Jaina Grey

GearThe iPhone Is Finally Getting USB-C. Here’s What That Means

Julian Chokkattu

Gear11 Great Deals on Sex Toys, Breast Pumps, and Smart Lights

Jaina Grey

Michael Calore: Who is Ronald Gladden?

Lauren Goode: I'm glad you asked. This is my second recommendation. If you have not had the chance yet to watch Jury Duty, a program that came out on Amazon Prime earlier this year, you must watch it. It is a part reality tv, part mockumentary, part documentary. The premise is very—it's like The Truman Show. Everyone has said this because it is true. It's a jury of 12 people. It's in Los Angeles. Eleven of those people are actors, paid professional actors, one person is not, and he has no idea that he's the only one who's not an actor. The judge is an actor. The bailiff is an actor. The plaintiff is an actor, the defendant, the lawyers, everyone, actors. And there's this one guy, Ronald, who's not an actor, and he doesn't realize that all the shenanigans that are happening are not real. He thinks they're real. There's also a legitimate celebrity on the program. James Marsden, the actor, plays James Marsden. He plays a super conceited version of himself. Very funny. There are moments during the program where you wonder about the ethics of it, and that is a good question. You should wonder about the ethics of it.

Michael Calore: That's all I'm thinking about.

Lauren Goode: Yeah, because this has, I think, the possibility of going really sideways. I'm still thinking about how Ronald must have felt when he found out, when he finds out the truth. You have to, of course, have to watch it. I won't spoil it.

Michael Calore: It's like the most epic catfish ever.

Lauren Goode: Yeah, his face. You can find it on TikTok if you're on that app, along with all the other youth, but I recommend checking out Jury Duty.

Michael Calore: OK.

Lauren Goode: All right. Now I gave my two. Now you get to give your two. That was really indulgent. That felt so fun.

Michael Calore: OK. I'll start with the one that I've prepared, and then the other one would be off the cuff.

Lauren Goode: OK.

Michael Calore: So I want to recommend a podcast. It's called A History of Rock Music in 500 Songs, and it's produced and hosted by a British gentleman named Andrew Hickey. This is a historical podcast, and it does what it says on the tin. It traces the history of rock music through the history of the world of music, and it does it by putting a pin in very important songs in the history of rock music. So it goes all the way back to the 1920s and '30s at the beginning of the show, and he's working his way up, and it's been going on for years and years. He's written books. Each episode is over an hour. Now the episodes are approaching two and a half, three hours. It's getting hairier as we get closer to present day, but he's still in the late 1960s. So it's an approachable show, because he's talking about things that, if you like music and you like popular music, that you care deeply about. But it's also really cool because there are a lot of music podcasts out there, and a lot of them are Wikipedia podcasts where it's one person or two people basically just recounting the facts that you've already heard, that are easily accessible online, about the artist or about their piece of work. But this show goes a lot deeper than that, particularly lately, as the show has gotten closer to the 1970s, where things are a lot more well documented. Andrew goes deep into where an artist came from and puts the song into the context of the political situation or the cultural movement that it came out of. There's also a lot of discussion about musical influences, like where this chord change came from, where this drum beat came from, how the artist may or may not have encountered that in their own life. So it's a very deep, very nerdy look at the music of those songs.

Most PopularGearThe 15 Best Electric Bikes for Every Kind of Ride

Adrienne So

GearThe Best Lubes for Every Occasion

Jaina Grey

GearThe iPhone Is Finally Getting USB-C. Here’s What That Means

Julian Chokkattu

Gear11 Great Deals on Sex Toys, Breast Pumps, and Smart Lights

Jaina Grey

Lauren Goode: Oh, that sounds fascinating.

Michael Calore: And, the lyrical content of those songs. It's great.

Lauren Goode: What's one of the facts that you've taken away from this so far that you think is particularly interesting?

Michael Calore: Particularly interesting?

Lauren Goode: Yeah. Something you didn't know before in your encyclopedic mind about music.

Michael Calore: So much. So much. I will say that the episodes that he's done around the Beach Boys and their career, because they show up a few times in his chronology, those have been really enlightening. The episode that really surprised me was the one around “Light My Fire” by the Doors, and the musical influences from jazz and from pop music that came into that song. Also, really fascinating. I would recommend that you actually, anybody who's curious, start with that one or the Beach Boys ones. Also, the episode about the Velvet Underground was really good, because it goes back into 20th century classical music and avant-garde music in New York, about the 10 years before the Velvet Underground recorded White Light/White Heat. So yeah, there's a lot there. There's a lot to chew on, but I would recommend looking at the feed, finding something that you're like, "Oh, I like that song. That's my favorite artist. That's my favorite album."

Lauren Goode: So, does that mean there are 500 episodes?

Michael Calore: Yes. He also does special Patreon episodes. So I think some of the 500 are not in the feed, but it's like a decade-long project.

Lauren Goode: Oh, wow.

Michael Calore: Yeah.

Lauren Goode: Fascinating.

Michael Calore: Yep. I'm glad you think so.

Lauren Goode: Totally going to listen. I can't promise I'll listen to all 500 episodes, but.

Michael Calore: I don't think anybody has.

Lauren Goode: Yeah, that's great.

Michael Calore: OK, recommendation number two.

Lauren Goode: Yes.

Michael Calore: Bitters and soda.

Lauren Goode: Say more.

Michael Calore: Bitters and soda. If you're out, if you're at the bar and you're in a social situation, and everybody's having a drink and maybe you don't want to drink, or maybe you want to take a break between drinks, or maybe you have to run a race the next morning and you don't want to have alcohol, bitters and soda, it's the way to go. It's soda from the gun and a couple of dashes of bitters from behind the bar. Every bartender has their own variation on it, because it is what bartenders drink often, to get them through their shift. It's hydrating. It can be delicious, and it looks pretty. And you also sidestep that weird social thing where people have all kinds of questions, if you're not having a drink, right? "Can I get you a drink? Why aren't you drinking?"

Lauren Goode: Yeah. Try being a woman and people asking you why you're not drinking.

Most PopularGearThe 15 Best Electric Bikes for Every Kind of Ride

Adrienne So

GearThe Best Lubes for Every Occasion

Jaina Grey

GearThe iPhone Is Finally Getting USB-C. Here’s What That Means

Julian Chokkattu

Gear11 Great Deals on Sex Toys, Breast Pumps, and Smart Lights

Jaina Grey

Michael Calore: I can't even imagine. I literally cannot even imagine. So bitters and soda.

Lauren Goode: That's a good one.

Michael Calore: It's a great little lifehack, and as I've been getting older, I've been deploying it more.

Lauren Goode: Thank you, Mike. Is that what you drank before the last time you ran that road race?

Michael Calore: It is. Yeah.

Lauren Goode: Huh?

Michael Calore: Yeah. I drink it often, even at home now. I do bitters and soda at home now. It's great.

Lauren Goode: Nice, all right.

Michael Calore: It's a fun lifehack.

Lauren Goode: That was a good off-the-cuff recommendation.

Michael Calore: Thank you. I appreciate that. And thank you for your recommendation.

Lauren Goode: You're welcome. I feel like we've given people a lot of really good lifehacks today.

Michael Calore: We have.

Lauren Goode: Watch Jury Duty, drink some bitters and soda.

Michael Calore: Don't go to jury duty because you'll get Covid.

Lauren Goode: Yeah. Get rid of all those cables and enjoy your 500-volume history of rock ‘n’ roll.

Michael Calore: Many, many hours.

Lauren Goode: That's great. You know what we didn't recommend? Hanging out in Roblox.

Michael Calore: I think that was tacit. I think that was implied in the show.

Lauren Goode: Implied that you should or that you shouldn't?

Michael Calore: That you should.

Lauren Goode: I don't know.

Michael Calore: You should give it a shot. Everybody should give Roblox a shot. And if you can figure out how to make your avatar move around in the virtual world, please tell Lauren because she's still working on that part.

Lauren Goode: I'm still there. I'm stuck. I'm just standing there with a virtual breadstick in my hotel room.

Michael Calore: Well, thank you for stepping into the real world to join me, and sit in this room and talk about Roblox.

Lauren Goode: Oh, there's no place I'd rather be than this studio with you, Mike.

Michael Calore: That's wonderful to hear. How about an Apple event? How about Cupertino? Would you like to go there?

Lauren Goode: Are you hinting at what we might be doing next week?

Michael Calore: I'm telling you what we will definitely be talking about next week.

Lauren Goode: Yep. Next week, we'll be down at Cupertino on Tuesday for what we anticipate will be a new iPhone, series of iPhones.

Michael Calore: Maybe.

Lauren Goode: New black slabs to play with. Yeah. And we'll have a few other folks here, too. And from out of town with us, Julian's going to be here. Adrienne's going to be here. It's going to be a whole WIRED podcast party.

Michael Calore: Apple, Apple, Apple.

Lauren Goode: Yeah.

Michael Calore: Don't miss it.

Lauren Goode: I can't wait.

Michael Calore: All right, well, thanks everybody for listening this week. If you have feedback, you can find us on the social medias. Just check the show notes. Our producer is Boone Ashworth. We hope you get well soon. We'll be back next week.

[Gadget Lab outro theme music plays]

Related Articles

Latest Articles