Safety from harassment in the metaverse has been a point of concern for a lot of people but Meta, Facebook’s parent company said it’s now launching a tool for people using the virtual reality social platforms in order to maintain personal space boundaries, as concerns continue to grow over user safety and sexual harassment.
The tool called “Personal boundary” will be able to allow users to feel as though they have nearly four feet between their virtual avatar and others when they access the virtual Horizon Worlds and Horizon Venue apps through their VR headsets.
Meta also announced via a blog post that its new default setting would make it very easy to avoid unwanted interactions. The change comes as users of VR platforms including Horizon Worlds raised alarms about virtual groping and other abusive behavior.
Meta, which is a spinoff from Facebook has invested billions of dollars in virtual and augmented reality technology as it proposes the metaverse to be the next big thing.
The company’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg says the virtual environment would make it easy for users to collaborate like never before and socialize with peers seamlessly without necessarily being around the physically.
Horizon Worlds, an expansive VR social platform, and Horizon Venues, which is focused on virtual events, are early iterations of metaverse-like spaces.
However, Meta has taken a big loss recently over its metaverse ambitions as it dropped 26% on Thursday in the biggest single-day dip in the market for a U.S. company. The company blamed Apple’s privacy changes and increased competition for its recent situation.
Meta isn’t the most beloved company around the world as it has faced numerous scrutiny from global lawmakers and regulators over its handling of problematic content and abuses on its services such as Facebook and Instagram.
The company however made it known that its new tool built on the current “hand harassment measures” where an avatar’s hands disappear if they invaded someone’s personal space would be of great help in combating harassment online.
It also currently has a “Safe Zone” feature where people can activate a bubble around their avatar if they feel threatened.
Meta’s vice president of Horizon Vivek Sharma said in the blog that the company believed the new personal boundaries would help set “behavioral norms.”
“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,” said Sharma.
He also added that in the near future, the company would look at the possibility of adding in controls such as letting people change the size of their personal boundaries.
For now, the company noted users will have to “extend their arms to be able to high-five or fist bump other people’s avatars.”