After spending about a week and a half trying to install universe per instructions available on https://github.com/openai/universe I still couldn't get universe fully working. With a recent web search I came across the following "JUSTIN'S BLOG" "OpenAI – Universe Installation Guide Ubuntu 16.04":
I've been working with an Ubuntu 16.04 VM, so I created a new virgin user on my VM and did a new universe installation using Justin's install procedure. I followed it almost to the letter, with one exception noted later. After a couple hours, working slowly and methodically, I had what so far seems to be a fully working universe installation. I can run the universe-starting-agent and see all the Tensorflow stuff in my browser. Lastly I don't know if Chromium is a better choice than Firefox to view Tensorflow but I'm using Chromium now per Justin's instructions.
Justin's guide is a relatively simple step-by-step and nearly complete procedure. The only step I had problems with was his instructions to get Tensorflow from storage.googleapis.com. I kept getting the error that it wouldn't run on my platform. Possibly something to do with me having Python 3.6 and not 3.4 or 3.5. I didn't want to mess with installing multiple Pythons and finally installed Tensorflow according to https://www.tensorflow.org/install/install_linux#ValidateYourInstallation , Basically just "pip install tensorflow" with the conda universe source activated, and with user Home my current directory. Every other step was per Justin's guide, and in the order suggested. Also I chose the CPU version of Tensorflow to keep it simple. If I later want to explore using GPU I'll do it with a separate user or VM installation.
The non-specific instructions on the Github getting started left me too much room to hurt myself. I had wound up installing Docker CE and Miniconda3 for instance. And I don't even recall what order I wound up installing/reinstalling the universe components. If anyone is still struggling with getting their universe install working I can highly recommend starting over with a clean environment (eg. new Ubuntu user) and proceeding with the guide on Justin's Blog.