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Meta introduces Personal Boundary in its metaverse to combat harassment

Even with the metaverse still in its infancy, Meta is already having to deal with harassment in its virtual community. The latest effort to combat abuse is setting boundaries or personal space in the virtual world.

With a new feature called Personal Boundary, Meta tries to make its Horizon Worlds and Horizon Venues a safer space for interaction. The company hopes to combat harassment by giving each avatar a bubble that extends two virtual feet around them. In effect, avatars won’t come closer than four feet to one another.

If an errant avatar tries to move closer, they will be stopped in their tracks when the two bubbles meet. However, the barrier is invisible.

Meta has made sure that this feature won’t lead to avatars getting trapped in corners or doorways, which some users may deliberately try to do. Also, you can still easily move past other avatars and even give high-fives and fist bumps, although you now have to extend your arm. Users can’t disable Personal Boundary, as confirmed by the company’s spokesperson, because it is intended to set standards for interaction. But users might eventually be allowed to change their boundary radii.

The company had to take safety seriously in its virtual community when a beta user complaint that her avatar was groped by a stranger shortly after Meta threw the door open to legal adult users in the US and Canada. Other measures Meta has tried include disappearing hands when an avatar enters another person’s personal space.

Other VR spaces have implemented a form of personal boundary to keep e-predators away. QuiVR even has the feature to push other avatars away within the game, which produced the earliest reports of sexual harassment in a virtual world.

Here is how Meta described the feature in a blog post:

“Today, we’re announcing Personal Boundary for Horizon Worlds and Horizon Venues. Personal Boundary prevents avatars from coming within a set distance of each other, creating more personal space for people and making it easier to avoid unwanted interactions. Personal Boundary will begin rolling out today everywhere inside of Horizon Worlds and Horizon Venues, and will by default make it feel like there is an almost 4-foot distance between your avatar and others. Over time, we’ll continue to make improvements as we learn how this affects people’s experiences.

“A Personal Boundary prevents anyone from invading your avatar’s personal space. If someone tries to enter your Personal Boundary, the system will halt their forward movement as they reach the boundary. You won’t feel it—there is no haptic feedback. This builds upon our existing hand harassment measures that were already in place, where an avatar’s hands would disappear if they encroached upon someone’s personal space.”

Meta will continue to improve on the feature. “Virtual reality can and should be for everyone. And we’re constantly working to improve people’s experience in VR, gathering feedback from the community to inform our work as we continue to iterate and make improvements.

We believe Personal Boundary is a powerful example of how VR has the potential to help people interact comfortably. It’s an important step, and there’s still much more work to be done. We’ll continue to test and explore new ways to help people feel comfortable in VR.”

Written by HackerVibes

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