Google is experimenting with technologies to stop trolling and harassment in virtual reality (VR) environments, even before the technology has fully taken off.
Google's Daydream Labs is leading the research, noting that if people have a bad experience when trying VR, especially for the first time, they may not use it again.
For example, one of Google's virtual shopping experiments enables two people to enter a virtual shop and try on different hats, sunglasses and accessories. Some people, naturally, found it hilarious to stick hats over each other's eyes, but this led to people feeling uncomfortable and ripping off their HTC Vive headset.
"If they couldn’t remove the hat in front of their eyes with their controllers, they had no other recourse than to take off their headset and end their VR experience," Google said.
Daydream Labs is experimenting with a number of technologies to stop trolls delving into the virtual world, one of which involves poker-playing dogs.
The idea is that one way to deter people harassing other players is by designing a personal space around each user and preventing them from invading each other's space.
Robbie Tilton, UX designer at Google VR, said: "We built an experiment around playing poker where we tried new ways to discourage trolling.
"If someone left their seat at the poker table, their environment desaturated to black and white and their avatar would disappear from the other player’s view. A glowing blue personal space bubble would guide the person back to their seat.
"We found it’s enough to prevent a player approaching their opponents to steal chips or invade personal space."
Google has also experimented with rewards for positive behaviour. If players high-five each other, they see a fireworks animation and hear a loud slapping sound.
Negative actions don’t come with any bonus features, so people tend to stick with positive interactions, according to Google.
VR is still in its infancy, but the move by Google to pre-empt problems with trolls and abuse in VR environments is smart, as many companies ignore the possibility and have to tackle it in the future, as seen with Facebook and Twitter.
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