How Microsoft Is Making AltspaceVR a Safer Space for Users
Microsoft has announced a raft of new safety measures for its AltspaceVR platform. With virtual reality and metaverse environments coming under increasing scrutiny for their security and safety practices, Microsoft is taking the additional steps to protect users, creating a safer, more inclusive environment.
Microsoft Removes Public Social Hubs From AltspaceVR
In a recent AltspaceVR blog post, Microsoft confirmed big changes to the virtual reality platform’s public social hubs.
In short, effective immediately, “AltspaceVR hosted social hubs including the Campfire, News, and Entertainment Commons will be removed” to help curb harassment faced by users in these spaces. Furthermore, AltspaceVR’s existing Safety Bubble feature will become the default setting for all users, while new attendees joining Events will be muted automatically.
Microsoft’s Alex Kipman said:
As platforms like AltspaceVR evolve, it is important that we look at existing experiences and evaluate whether they’re adequately serving the needs of customers today and in the future. This includes helping people better connect with those who have shared common interests while also ensuring the spaces they access are safe from inappropriate behavior and harassment.
Along with those changes, Microsoft is also evaluating its content rating system for Events, ensuring that users don’t inadvertently enter rooms featuring inappropriate content. By extension, Microsoft will also bolster moderation across the entire AltspaceVR platform, making it easier to report content.
AltspaceVR Will Require a Microsoft Account
Another change is the mandatory use of a Microsoft Account to sign in to AltspaceVR. The move will bring AltspaceVR in line with Microsoft’s other online services and will help manage accounts using their age rating.
We will also require all users to log-in to AltspaceVR using a Microsoft Account. Just as we do for Xbox, Windows, and other Microsoft services, we will integrate MSA accounts with Microsoft Family Safety, allowing parents to approve or limit access to AltspaceVR for 13+ family members who download AltspaceVR from the Microsoft Store.
The Microsoft Account requirement isn’t rolling out alongside the other changes, but the company will “Communicate the exact timing and how parents can implement these changes in the months ahead.”
Metaverse safety is a concern for the companies racing to build virtual platforms. Users want to come to a virtual space, be that a VR experience or a metaverse world, and to feel secure in their environment. Building the tools to do that must be a ground-up process for new projects. However, as Microsoft is now finding, retrospective safety tools, like the default Safety Bubble and clearer content rating systems, are equally important for existing platforms like AltspaceVR.
They’re not the first big tech company to roll out safety measures for a metaverse platform, either. Meta’s Horizon Worlds and Horizon Venues has also launched personal bubbles after a series of videos emerged of user harassment, where one metaverse user invades the space of another.
Similar to Microsoft’s Safety Bubble, Meta’s Personal Boundary creates a four-foot safety space around the user avatar. Vivek Sharma, vice president of Horizon, said that Meta’s Personal Boundary would create “more personal space for people and make it easier to avoid unwanted interactions.” Sharma also said, “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.”
For once, Microsoft and Meta are reading from the same hymn sheet, recognizing that if people are to begin using metaverse platforms in earnest, tech companies are going to have to step up and ensure user security, just as they would have to on social media, Xbox, or any other social-enabled platform.
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