Meta adds ‘Personal Boundary’ feature amid virtual groping controversy

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TL;DR Breakdown

  • Reports of groping in the virtual reality world created by Meta.
  • A new “personal boundary” feature was added to protect users from unwanted interactions in the online world.
  • The Horizon users and their avatars will now enjoy safe personal space with the new personal boundaries feature.

Horizon Worlds is an online virtual world and a product of Meta which can be accessed by anyone with the help of Oculus VR headsets. Horizon allows users to design their own online world, meet and interact with other VR users. What’s even more exciting is that with Horizon, users can organize VR events like exhibitions or performances.

Meta, the company which was previously referred to as Facebook, announced and put in place a “personal boundary” feature to help Horizon users evade unwelcome contact in the virtual reality world.

Meta comes under fire due to virtual groping problem

Meta has been under the spotlight for quite some time now, and some may argue that mostly because of all the wrong reasons. Not so long ago, the company dominated headlines when it suffered from massive losses in the stock market.

Meta had to take another hit because of the virtual groping controversy. In November last year, a beta tester announced something very saddening in the Horizon Worlds beta testing group on Facebook. She described that she had been groped by a stranger in the virtual reality world.

According to The Verge, the user pointed out that not only was she groped, but other users supported that behavior which made things worse for her. She added that while sexual harassment is serious enough on regular social media platforms, being in a virtual reality world made the occurrence even more intense.

Another user wrote that she was verbally and sexually harassed within just one minute of joining. She added that it was a horrible experience and it all happened so quickly, she froze.

The company continues to grow in popularity because of the hype around the Metaverse. The team at Meta is now looking to calm down the situation a little by introducing a feature that can help prevent harassment in its virtual Horizon Worlds.

Personal space or boundaries could be argued as a necessity for most people, especially when around others in close proximity. It might then seem that the team behind Meta’s Horizon Worlds failed to notice this salient issue when designing the metaverse.

Meta Reality Labs has now taken note of all these complaints and attempted to come up with a solution.

Giving “personal boundary” to users and their avatars

Meta disclosed that the company is launching and welcoming a new Personal Boundary feature for their virtual reality world. The feature will allow users to maintain a distance of 2 feet with other users. Making the required changes will prevent avatars from coming within 2 feet of the user’s personal boundary. What this means is that the total distance between two avatars will be four feet.

According to the company, the personal boundary feature is already available to assist users of Horizon Worlds and Horizon Venues with a safe space. Meta also expressed that they will be keeping a close eye to find out how the new feature will affect users’ experiences in the online world and will be looking to make further improvements over time.

Meta acknowledged that not everyone, or every avatar, will mind others coming near them. As such the company will look into the practicability of coming up with updates that will allow users to customize the size of their personal boundaries.

However, for the time being, avatars will have to spread out their arms to interact with each other in the virtual reality world.

It is vital for Meta to come up with the perfect solution. The company stated that virtual reality can and should be for everyone. On the other hand, Facebook has long been subjected to criticism because of bullying and harassment cases on the social media platform. It wouldn’t be ideal for the company if the same were to happen in the metaverse.

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