Meta's Horizon Worlds Introduces 'Personal Boundary' So Users Can Avoid Unwanted Interactions

Horizon Worlds, Meta VR

Social media allows people to interact with others in increasingly engaging ways.

Traditionally, users are limited to their gadgets with touch, gesture or peripherals as inputs, and the screen as output. As computers advance, things can go beyond that. With virtual reality (VR), human-computer interaction can seemingly go beyond the screen, blending the digital world with the real world.

Meta is formally-known as the social network giant Facebook.

After opening its "metaverse" platform Horizon Worlds to the public, the company hopes that users can feel and experience the digital world where reality is becoming a bit questionable. Initially, through the Minecraft-like environment, users can interact with other avatars, as thousands flocked as beta testers to experience regular comedy shows, movie nights, and even meditation sessions.

With it, people can communicate through the distance, halfway across the globe, in real time, using avatars. The experience of this so-called metaverse Meta is creating, called the Horizon Worlds, goes beyond the usual way of social media interactions.

The thing is, it also takes harassments and assaults to the next level.

Following a number of unwanted incidents, especially after a woman from the UK wrote that she had been "gang raped" by a number of male avatars, and also after receiving a number of complaints and controversies, a representative for Meta apologized and said that the company regretted the incident.

The Meta spokesperson also and also sought to reassure users that the technology firm wanted everyone in Horizon venues to have a "positive experience" and be able to quickly get access to the safety tools.

The spokesperson said everyone can "easily find the safety tools that help in a situation like this — and help us investigate and take action."

“We will continue to make improvements as we learn more about how people interact in these spaces, especially when it comes to helping people report things easily and reliably.”

On top of that, Meta said that it plans to add a personal boundary to Horizon Worlds' avatars.

In a statement, Meta said the boundary is planned to be a nearly four-foot bubble that creates a distance between a person's avatar and other avatars.

Users activating this protective bubble can prevent anyone from coming close to them, talking to them, or interacting with them in any way.

"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," wrote Vivek Sharma, Vice President of Horizon Worlds, in a blog post on Oculus' website.

"We believe Personal Boundary is a powerful example of how VR has the potential to help people interact comfortably. It’s an important step, and there’s still much more work to be done."

Personal Boundary
Personal Boundary is invisible, but can prevent any outside interaction with the user. (Credit: Meta)

Facebook launched Horizon Worlds as a 'teaser' of this metaverse CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg is envisioning.

Zuckerberg is betting that the metaverse would be the next generation of the internet, because he thinks that it's going to be part of the digital economy.

It's Meta's ambitious plan to lure people toward something that combines virtual reality, augmented reality and social media.

This is why Zuckerberg expects people to start seeing Meta as a “metaverse company,” and not anymore a social media company.

At this time, though, the metaverse exists only as an amorphous idea coined by science fiction author Neal Stephenson, and was first commercialized by the likes of Second Life by Philip Rosedale.

And following the controversies of Horizon Worlds, Meta’s shares fell in after-hours trading.