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Image courtesy Meta

Meta to Open ‘Horizon Worlds’ Social VR Platform to Kids Ages 13+

    Categories: NewsSocial Virtual RealitySocial VR

Horizon Worlds, Meta’s social VR platform for Quest, is only open to 18+ users for now, however the company says it’s expanding to include teens aged 13 to 17 in the US and Canada.

Meta says the new policy will go into effect in “the coming weeks,” effectively opening the company’s first-party social platform to its entire user base in those countries; Meta only allows users 13+ to actually use Quest devices.

To prepare for the wave of younger users, the company is also releasing some age-appropriate protections and safety defaults.

Safety features will include the ability for teens to control who they follow and who can follow them back. Profiles are also set to private by default, which obscures active status and location. Worlds and events will have content ratings, so younger teens can’t get in.

A new voice mode feature is also rolling out to everyone, which garbles voices of both unknown people and teen’s voices by default. Raising your hand to your ear temporarily lets you hear other users when voice mode is switched on, Meta says.

“We’re rolling out to teens slowly, so that we can carefully examine usage and are taking a phased approach before expanding more broadly,” the company says in a blogpost. “We can’t wait to see everything these new members of the community bring to Worlds.”

Parents and guardians can use the parental supervision tools to manage their teen’s experience and “support healthy conversations about safety in VR,” Meta says. To learn more, check out the new Family Center.

The company also released a safety tutorial to see the new features in action:

While Meta only just released official word of those changes to Horizon Worlds, the news was actually first reported by The Wall Street Journal in February, which was based on an internal memo that alleged the social VR platform was under performing and needed to increase user retention to keep up with the competition. According to the memo seen by WSJ, Horizon Worlds’ weekly retention rate was 11% in January 2023, which the company aimed to increase to 20%.

A goal outlined in the memo maintained Worlds needed to reach 500,000 monthly active users (MAU) in the first half of 2023, ultimately reaching the one million mark by year’s end. At the time, it was reported the platform was hovering around 200,000 MAUs, or just below the December peak.

There’s no telling when the flatscreen version of Horizon Worlds is due to arrive, however Meta maintained it would be opening the Quest-only social platform to Web and mobile devices “soon.”