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Why it matters: Oculus announced the addition of a feature in Facebook’s Oculus applications that establishes a minimum distance of contact between avatars. It comes in response to reports of sexual harassment between avatars in the company’s virtual worlds.
Today Meta rolled out "Personal Boundaries" in Horizon Worlds and Horizon Venues for the Oculus Quest. The one by default feature creates a barrier extending about four feet around each avatar. It will simply stop the forward motion of any avatar that hits it, with no haptic feedback.
The company says it introduced the personal bubbles—which it will tweak as needed—to help set social norms in VR. A previous feature already caused an avatar’s hand to disappear if it crossed someone’s personal space.
In November, a Meta beta tester reported another user in Horizon Worlds groped her. She reported and blocked the user but said the guide in the Horizon Worlds plaza--a sort of moderator--didn’t do anything. In the report, she asked for a protective “bubble” that would force people away, which seems to have led to Meta’s introduction of the new feature this week.
Metaverse researcher Nina Jane Patel claimed she was gang-raped in one of the virtual spaces. A few male avatars surrounded hers, took photos, and verbally harassed her within 60 seconds of her joining. Other cases of VR sexual harassment go back to the early years of modern VR headsets.