Meta Introduce Mandatory ‘Personal Boundaries’ For Avatars In The Metaverse

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Although the metaverse remains very much a concept at this stage, it hasn’t stopped the media claiming that it is already rife with sex crime. A 43 year old British woman recently alleged to have been ‘groped’ or even worse within minutes of entering Horizon Workrooms, a VR space that is still in beta mode, but which many see as Meta’s embryonic attempt at building its much hyped metaverse. Initially, the media reported that the woman had been groped by three laughing avatars with male voices. As the week progressed, so too had the description of the alleged virtual assault, now being referred to as a gang ***e. Meta (formerly Facebook), already under fire for ignoring safety and privacy concerns on their Facebook and Instagram platforms, were quick to respond by introducing mandatory ‘personal barriers’ for their avatars, which means that it is impossible for them to ‘touch’.

Meta is adding a “personal boundary” system to its Horizon virtual reality experiences, aiming to stop harassment in VR. The new feature is being turned on by default in the Horizon Worlds creation platform and the Horizon Venues live event service. It creates an invisible virtual barrier around avatars, preventing other people from getting too close — although you can apparently still stretch your arm out to give someone a fist-bump or high five.

The boundary system builds on an existing feature that could make users’ hands disappear if they got too close to another avatar. As described by Meta, it gives everyone a two-foot radius of virtual personal space, creating the equivalent of four virtual feet between avatars. Meta spokesperson Kristina Milian confirmed that users can’t choose to disable their personal boundaries since the system is intended to establish standard norms for how people interact in VR. However, future changes could let people customize the size of the radius.

Source : The Verge

There’s no doubt that increasingly realistic and popular VR worlds are going to need regulating at some point, as they begin to blur the present manifest distinction between the real world and the virtual. Of course, the alleged victim of this no doubt upsetting ordeal wasn’t physically touched – she was not wearing a ‘haptic suit’, and of course, unlike the real world, there is always the option to simply pull the plug, or perhaps better, simply block the individuals. But this hasn’t stopped legal experts from already calling for ‘virtual sex assault’ to be made a crime in the ‘Metaverse’. In fact, such a law could even be tagged on to a forthcoming bill in the UK parliament which hopes to ‘bring legislation up-to-date’ to cover new sex tech, such as deepfake porn, or an ammendment made to exisiting laws, as was recently done to make ‘upskirting’ a crime.

Mrs Patel’s experience will heighten fears that the metaverse, which experts predict could be worth up to £500 billion a year by 2024, will become a haunt for sex attackers and paedophiles.

A senior lawyer said the attack was not an offence, but suggested Ministers may have to consider how to protect those entering the metaverse. Nick Brett, of London law firm Brett Wilson, said: ‘Where a woman has been sexually assaulted virtually, that itself possibly ought to be illegal but isn’t at present.’

He said the Sexual Offences Act 2003 may need to be amended to prosecute people who hide behind avatars, adding: ‘There have previously been amendments – most recently on up-skirting – so there is no reason why it couldn’t be.’

Source : Daily Mail

Featured image by Dima Solomin on Unsplash

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