Creating A Safe Environment For People In VR

Mon 31 October 2016 by Jim Purbrick

I was very happy that Oculus found time at OC3 to host a panel on creating a safe environment for people in VR. As social VR becomes more popular over the next few years it will quickly have to learn how to keep people safe together in shared environments. Some of the challenges are new: tracked hands make it easier to violate other avatars and gesture abusively without resorting to custom animations or scripts; invading personal space is a much bigger issue and increased presence makes all experiences more visceral for better or worse. Some novel solutions have already been developed for these challenges, notably the personal space bubbles developed for Bigscreen and widely used in other social VR experiences. However, a lot of these problems have been experienced in virtual worlds since MUD1 launched nearly 40 years ago. I was particularly struck by how the experiences with filtering, reporting and governance in Altspace VR reminded me of the story of LambdaMOO becoming a self-governing community told by Julian Dibbell in My Tiny Life. People like Julian, Richard Bartle and Raph Koster have been wrestling with and thinking about these problems for decades. The pioneers of this generation of VR should make sure they learn from those experiences.