Meta adds VR "Personal Boundary" after harassment claims

Meta can't seem to keep out of the headlines these days, and usually for all the wrong reasons. Last week, the company was in the news after its stocks were mauled by investors who reacted with horror at billions of dollars lost in pursuing its metaverse dream. Meta's Reality Labs bled over $10 billion, which resulted in more than $225 billion being wiped off its market cap, according to CNN. The same team at Meta is now trying to hose down a cyber groping controversy with some changes that it hopes will stamp out harassment in its Horizon Worlds and Horizon Venues metaverse.

Personal space is something people value as it helps us stay comfortable when we are in relatively close proximity to others. In light of that, you might think this would come into consideration when creating the metaverse, but it seems Meta's Horizon Worlds and Horizon Venues designers overlooked the issue.

This oversight has subsequently led to some metaverse visitors being harassed by others right in their virtual faces, including some users grasping at virtual body parts in inappropriate ways. To say this is a little creepy in an understatement, but Reality Labs has belatedly crafted a solution to the problem.

Giving users back their personal space

Taking to the Meta Quest (formerly Oculus Quest) blog, Meta has announced it is introducing a new "Personal Boundary" feature for Horizon Worlds and Horizon Venues. The adjustment prevents avatars from coming within 2 feet of someone else's "Personal Boundary" by default, resulting in a total distance between two users of 4 feet.

The feature is already live, "creating more personal space for people and making it easier to avoid unwanted interactions," according to the company. Meta says it will continue to tweak the feature over time as it observes how Personal Boundary affects users' experiences in the metaverse.

Of course, some people don't mind others getting close to them, so Meta says it will investigate the possibility of adding new controls and UI elements that allow users to tailor their "Personal Boundary" size. In the meantime, users will need to stretch out their arms to give virtual high-fives and fist bumps.

It is important for Meta to get its metaverse formula right. Facebook has copped plenty of criticism over bully and harassment on its platforms, issues it has taken steps to address, and no one wants to see the same behaviors happen in the metaverse, too. As Meta states, "Virtual reality can and should be for everyone".