Personal boundary de Meta

In the future metavers, cyberstalking is already a problem

A technical function. This is the usual response of Meta, formerly Facebook, whenever a problem is raised with it regarding its services. Cyber-attacks in the virtual world are no exception. Since February 4, 2022, users of these spaces have been using the “personal boundary” setting to prevent their digital avatar from being approached too closely by others. A kind of social distancing in short.

This secure space establishes an impassable area between two characters equivalent to 1.20 meters (4 feet) in the physical world. “Personal Boundary” does not need to be activated: the function is activated by default. Any movement of one avatar towards another that tends to violate this space will be interrupted. On the other hand, the avatars will be able to continue passing close to each other, just to prevent the protection zone from blocking simple movements, or even being diverted from its primary purpose to block the road to others.

Places expected to be very populated

For Meta, the idea is to guarantee a more secure metavers. The metavers is the new big project of Mark Zuckerberg’s company but is currently just another term for “virtual reality”. In concrete terms, the function is available for the services, recently launched by Meta, of Horizon Worlds virtual world and virtual halls for Horizon Venues events. Places called to be very populated, where everyone can meet strangers, unlike the Horizon Workrooms workspaces. All these places are accessible via the Oculus Quest head-mounted display.

This addition comes after a succession of testimonies of assaults in virtual reality. In early December 2021, a beta tester told on the official Facebook group of Horizon Worlds that she had been, a few days before, not only virtually groped by an avatar but that in addition, the scene had been observed by others without any reacting, amplifying the feeling of panic and isolation.

A Bloomberg technology columnist also spoke of her unease at Horizon Venues. Alone present in the form of a female avatar (modeled on her real appearance) in the middle of a dozen male avatars all unknown to her, she found herself observed, photographed, surrounded and one of them came close enough to give her the feeling of talking in her ear. Similar experiences have happened to him in Microsoft’s virtual space.

A virtual rape in Second Life

Even more disturbing, another beta tester, the British Nina Jane Patel, was sexually assaulted by three avatars in the first seconds of her arrival in Horizon Venues, in January 2022. She says she had to rip off her helmet visor to escape.

In a searched post from his blog Affordance.info , the information and communication researcher at the University of Nantes, Olivier Ertzscheid recalls that a virtual rape had taken place in Second Life in 2007 (resulting in the intervention of the Belgian federal police), that in 2014, the video game Grand Theft Auto offered a “rape” option and that in 2016, a participant in the virtual reality game QuiVr recounted the sexual assault she had suffered there. “Just as there is a ‘cyber’ version of harassment, unfortunately there is also a ‘cyber’ version of sexual assault. It would not occur to anyone to explain that ‘cyber-harassment’ is less serious, toxic or harmful than offline harassment, but unfortunately it is still necessary to remember that the same applies to sexual assault. Even if it is virtual, a sexual assault remains a sexual assault,” notes the researcher.

Recalling research works on the subject, and already dating from 1997, Olivier Ertzcheid points to a phenomenon inherent in virtual worlds: in addition to cutting off physical reality, it cuts the user from his social reality. He does not necessarily take with him his moral values and finds himself immersed in a universe without responsibility, without accountability to anyone, without guilt because without confrontation to his victims. In virtual worlds, real problems are never far away.

Unity 3D Development | VR Game Developers

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