The future is bright, no shades this time now it’s a headset. Apple’s future Virtual Reality headset, set to appear as early as 2022, claims to have a way to prevent internet bullies and trolls in the “Metaverse”. The potential safety system sees offending avatars having lowered volume and/or getting faded out, with the worst offenders disappearing completely. This rumoured headset is said to possibly be the first step towards an “Apple AR glasses” because of augmented reality’s close relation to virtual reality.
In Apple’s recent patent application appearing on the US Patent & Trademark Office website, the fading out of an avatar could be triggered based on proximity. For example, if one user’s avatar gets too close to another, their avatar will begin to fade away. The appropriate proximity will depend on the trust levels between the users like family and friends who will be allowed to get closer. There will even be a possibility to track family and friends to make it easier to interact when wanted.
Apple did note that in some cases, where getting close to another user is necessary, such as virtual boxing matches, avatars will not fade.
Moreover, each user will have a different view over the interaction between other avatars; getting too close might trigger fading for one user but not for another. Apple has also implemented moderators who will be allowed to view the scene with no adjustment and intervene only when necessary.
An alternative to the fading system is that users might be allowed to leave a shared virtual environment that is uncomfortable using an escape gesture that creates a doorway that is not visible to the other users. This will allow for a quick exit that prevents the user from being followed into another room when they navigate through the different pathways.
Apple does note that its safety system to prevent bullies and trolls is not implemented to suppress freedom of expression. Apple has said that the safety system might include an opt-in and opt-out setting to control how much the system takes care of automatically.
It is early days but it’s reassuring that in a virtual meeting space there will be an “Escape” for users who are uncomfortable or threatened. The feature is also one that will enhance this platform’s sales of VR headsets declaring cyber security built-in.
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