“Personal Boundaries” introduced in Meta to combat harassment

We didn’t think we’d need this, but here we are.

words by: Sahar Khraibani
Mar 27, 2022

Meta has announced the addition of a new Personal Boundary function to Horizon Worlds and Horizon Venues, which is a feature meant to shield people from abuse. Personal Boundary generates a bubble around avatars to keep players from getting too close and helps maintain personal space. Meta joins the ranks of other virtual reality companies with this feature, which appears to have been developed in response to a recent harassment incident.


How it works

In a blog post announcing the feature, the company shared:


“A Personal Boundary prevents anyone from invading your avatar’s personal space. If someone tries to enter your Personal Boundary, the system will halt their forward movement as they reach the boundary. You won’t feel it—there is no haptic feedback. This builds upon our existing hand harassment measures that were already in place, where an avatar’s hands would disappear if they encroached upon someone’s personal space.”


According to Meta, the function ensures that players’ characters stay within 4 feet of one another and that there would be no feedback if they were beyond that boundary. It’s similar to how video games erect invisible barriers to keep players from straying too far. Fist bumping and other actions that require characters to touch each other are still feasible. All you have to do now is extend your arm further.


Personal Boundary is the default state for Horizon Worlds and Horizon Venues and it is currently being rolled out. Boundaries can’t be turned off. The company has claimed that it wants to offer controls for Personal Boundary settings, such as adjusting the bubble size, although no date has been specified for this update.


Why it’s needed

According to recent reports, harassment is a problem in these metaverse games. In November 2021, a Horizon Worlds beta tester claimed that her avatar had been grabbed by a stranger and that she felt raped. Earlier VR games, such as Rec Room, used similar bubbles to discourage abuse.


As experts predict that harassment will continue in virtual reality games, other creators are incorporating community norms and mechanisms to curb this behavior. Meta hopes that this action will establish a new standard of behavior.


If someone tries to enter your personal space, they will come to a halt as soon as they are too close. Avatars will still be able to travel past each other, according to Meta, so users won’t get stuck in a corner or doorway.


In other Meta news, they’re making it possible to create and sell NFTs on Instagram.


Photo via Oculus