Meta unveiled on Friday its’ Personal Boundary upgrade for Horizon Worlds and Horizon Venues, allowing avatars to create a personal space to prevent other users from contacting them while interacting in the Metaverse.
The new feature will instal a four-foot perimeter around each avatar to block to “avoid unwanted interactions,” Meta said in a recent blog post, adding it would improve the added function over time.
Vivek Sharma, Vice-President of Horizon, wrote that in the latest update, other users can no longer invade an avatar’s personal boundary, without haptic feedback, to avoid potential online harassment scenarios.
He explained further, stating,
“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”
According to the Menlo Park-based company, the ‘intentional’ rollout of the Personal Boundary feature would “help to set behavioral norms” key to healthy interactions in virtual reality (VR), and plans to explore future updates such as customising Boundary sizes along with other options.
Users wishing to interact on the Horizon Metaverse apps must extend arms to “high-five or fist bump other people’s avatars,” he concluded, adding that VR “can and should be for everyone,” and that Meta would work to safeguard the platform to allow people to “interact comfortably.”
Meta, The Metaverse, and Ethical Behaviour
The development comes after Nina Jane Patel, Vice-President for Kabuni Ventures, wrote in December she had been verbally and sexually harassed by up to four male avatars “within 60 seconds of joining.”
Meta did not immediately comment on the incident to USA Today at the time, but has repeatedly and routinely stated it would work to protect people on its platforms.
The news follows growing concerns over Meta’s Horizons platform, which has faced considerable backlash after a young woman died due to reported exposure to harmful content on the company’s social media platform Facebook, sparking a government enquiry by whistleblower Frances Haugen.
Mark Zuckerberg, Meta Founder and CEO, slammed her allegations and other reports that his company had failed to safeguard its users as false, adding the claims were a “coordinated effort” to damage the company’s reputation despite Meta remaining receptive to “good faith criticism.”
Meta’s Global Comms Chief, Nick Clegg, vowed in an interview in November to protect online users while on his company’s Metaverse platforms, stating Meta would also join efforts with global organisations such as the Washington, DC-based XR Association to ensure their safety.
The company also pledged $50 million USD in September to develop the Metaverse ethically and responsibly along with numerous global and supranational organisations.