Roblox: The best hope for older adults to participate in the evolution of technology.

(“cloudstubborn” connection?) > How to provide a way for older adults to participate in the rapid acceleration of technology offered by the cloud?

My dad is 85 years old. He has mild Parkinson’s where his hands shake slightly, he also has poor vision and uses glasses, and because of this, he has a hard time reading text on a standard computer screen.

He used to love suffering on the web, but now he can’t easily do it. The main problems are:

  1. Can’t easily control the standard mouse. Because his hands shake slightly, it is hard to precisely control the mouse pointer.
  2. Can’t see small text, the size that is common on most 15-inch laptops.
  3. Can’t type because of reason #1 above.
  4. Could never wear a Quest-like headset due to he already has really thick glasses and has trouble with balance. He requires minimal visual dis-orientation.

The other day while I was wandering around in Roblox, it came to me that something like a Roblox running on a large laptop display would be a great activity for older adults. “But” there would have to be some changes to accommodate the interactive capabilities of this target audience.

  1. Need a way to set a default experience that Roblox will automatically enter when starting up the player. For that matter, need a way to easily configure Roblox to start automatically when the laptop starts up. For my dad, and probably millions of others, what is needed is a “zero step” process to enter into Roblox from the laptop “Power On.” Almost like a purpose-built laptop / OS that is the “Roblox Terminal to the Metaverse for Seniors.” If authentication is needed, it would be based on fingerprint authorization which is now common on newer Mac laptops. No typing user names and passwords.
  2. Need a way to set a “budget” for spending. Maybe someone else in my family would have a special “banking password” for the account. Then you could set up a rule that says like: “You can spend $XX per day” (maybe a week or month). That way, my dad could upgrade his virtual car or bling out his character but not drain his account in one day. I would also want to lock out Creator-Cam, Chat, and all the other options that put small distracting text on the display. Think Jony Ives “clean.”
  3. Have some places to visit that have minimal objects blocking the “walking around” experience. Open spaces, big doors, no nooks/crannies where your character can get “stuck.” In Roblox, if you search for “senior citizen” (that might not be a politically correct term…), your search doesn’t return anything along the lines of what I’m describing. Simple experiences like “Walk on the Beach,” “Swim in the Pool,” or “Hike in the Woods” are needed. Then have a super simple way to navigate to those choices using the next item…
  4. A new mouse/trackpad approach to moving around that doesn’t rely on pressing tiny little arrow keys standard on laptops and doesn’t rely on moving a mouse around. The Roblox Terminal interface must avoid multi-key presses like “shift-right-click”, etc. Instead, what is needed is just 4 “really big” arrow keys, something like this:
Conceptual Roblox interface for older adults

Yes, moving around quickly would be really slow, but that is ok. Just being able to “easily” move around would provide many hours of entertainment. You would design the virtual environment to accommodate a limited distance of travel. No cars, no animals to ride on, just walking. Maybe one more button in the middle to “take you back to the beginning…”

There is an opportunity for a company like Roblox, Meta, Nvidia, or one of the game engine companies like Unity to create a Metaverse experience for the honored members of our population. This group of people would never be able to wear a Metaverse headset. But they could interact with a Roblox-like experience if we “designed” something specific for them.

I’m sure there have been economic studies related to how many potential revenue dollars might come from different age groups participating in the Metaverse. And most likely, that dollar amount falls off quickly as the player age gets older. But there is also a social responsibility for us to provide some way for our entire popular to participate in the benefits of our accelerating technological achievements.

My few simple ideas here aren’t the real solution to the problem, but my dad at 85 would be thrilled if he had an easy to way “wander around”, engage his mind, and be active in the “Metaverse”!