Meta has introduced a ‘personal limit’ feature for its worlds horizon and Horizon Venues virtual reality (VR) systems that will bypass avatars in the metaverse to be within a certain distance from each other. This is intended to help users avoid unwanted interactions and harassment. This update comes after complaints surfaced in news reports and on social media about incidents of sexual harassment.
According to Horizon VP Vivek Sharma, the personal boundary will make it appear that there is a distance of almost 4 feet between your avatar and others.
“Within 60 seconds of joining, I was verbally and sexually harassed,” one user wrote on a blog about her experience. “A horrible experience that happened so fast and before I could even think about putting the security barrier in place. I froze,” she added noting that several male avatars had gang raped her digital avatar on the platform.
For the uninitiated, Facebook was renamed Meta last year to build a virtual universe blurring the lines between the physical and digital worlds. The Metaverse is supposed to be a “digital world” with real people represented by digital objects.
How does it work?
With the new feature implemented, if an avatar tries to enter their personal limit, the system will stop their forward movement when they reach the limit. “This builds on our existing anti-hand harassment measures that are already in place, where an avatar’s hands would disappear if they invaded someone’s personal space,” Sharma wrote in a blog post.
The Personal Boundary feature will, by default, always be on, “this will help establish norms of behavior, and that’s important for a relatively new medium like virtual reality,” Sharma added, noting that in the near future, the company will explore the ability to add in new controls and UI changes, such as allowing people to customize the size of their personal limit.
“We believe that Personal Boundary is a powerful example of how virtual reality has the potential to help people interact comfortably. It is an important step, and there is still much work to be done. We will continue to test and explore new ways to help people feel comfortable in VR.”
Horizon Workrooms is a first step towards a virtual reality “metaverse”. Mark Zuckerberg’s plan is to go straight from smartphones and laptops to VR headsets as the way to engage billions of his users with Facebook in a more immersive way. Meta opened its Horizon Worlds virtual reality platform to the public in North America in December, in a step toward building its metaverse vision for the future.
It should be noted that Horizon Worlds is far from a fully realized metaverse, which even Meta believes will require years of work and technological advances. However, users in the United States and Canada who use headsets can now meet up with friends or others, play games, and build their own virtual worlds in Horizon, as long as they’re 18 years old and have the right equipment.