Trigger Warning: Mention of 'rape'
Meta has launched 'Personal Boundary' for Horizon Worlds and Horizon Venues to create more personal space for the avatars and avoid unwanted interactions.
Personal Boundary in VR platforms by Meta prevents avatars from coming within a set distance of each other, creating more personal space for people and making it simpler to avoid unwanted interactions. The feature 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.
A Personal Boundary prevents anyone from invading an avatar’s personal space. If someone tries to enter a Personal Boundary, the system will halt their forward movement as they reach the boundary. Users would not feel it — there is no haptic feedback.
The feature comes in after an incident of sexual exploitation, as shared by Nina Jane Patel, Co-founder & VP, Metaverse Research. In a blogpost on Medium, she shared that within a minute of joining Meta's Horizon Venues she was verbally and sexually harassed and 'virtually gang raped' by 3-4 male avatars.
"As I tried to get away they yelled, "don’t pretend you didn’t love it” and “go rub yourself off to the photo”. A horrible experience that happened so fast, and before I could even think about putting the safety barrier in place. I froze", she shared.
She also mentioned since VR is designed to feel like a real experience, she could not differentiate virtual/digital experiences from real. "In some capacity, my physiological and psychological response was as though it happened in reality."
Personal Boundary is always on, by default, because this may set behavioral norms, especially for a relatively new medium like VR. In the future, they will explore the possibility of adding in new controls and UI changes, like letting people customize the size of their Personal Boundary.
Note that because Personal Boundary is the default experience, users will need to extend their arms to be able to high-five or fist bump other people’s avatars in Horizon Worlds or in Horizon Venues.