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Microsoft Adds Digital Safe Space Updates to Altspace

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Last week, tech giant and immersive technology vendor Microsoft updated its virtual reality (VR) meeting platform AltspaceVR to safely accommodate users.

Following the update, the popular Metaverse platform has become a more inclusive place that discourages unethical behaviour and online harassment.

Microsoft has removed all social hubs from the AltspaceVR platform, including popular remote meeting spaces such as News, Entertainment Commons, and Campfire.

Also, the firm added a ‘Safety Bubble’ feature that, by default, creates a safe space for users that others cannot enter, and the platform now automatically mutes all users.

The update comes as part of an ongoing pledge by Microsoft to make AltspaceVR a safe platform for all users and, in the future, the firm will be introducing new moderation tools as well as content ratings.

Microsoft Spokesperson and HoloLens Creator, 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”

Adding Microsoft Family Accounts

As of January 2021, AltspaceVR now requires its members to sign into a Microsoft account to enable users to securely log in without privacy fears. In this most recent update, users can add parental locks to block children from accessing inappropriate content.

Following AltspaceVR’s most recent update, Microsoft has released an in-depth user guide on how to securely create and use their account on the platform.

Microsoft also created ‘Mesh,’ a Metaverse platform designed for enterprise-grade communications, but has not confirmed whether it will add the new safety measures to the remote meeting platform.

Responding to Online Harassment in the Metaverse

The news comes after Meta initially responded to online harassment on emerging Metaverse platforms earlier this month, namely after the Menlo Park-based firm added personal boundaries to its Horizon Worlds and Horizon Venues Metaverse platforms.

Meta’s ‘personal boundaries’ feature integrates a virtual four-foot perimeter around an individual’s avatar which disables haptic feedback. Additionally, in a blog post, Meta confirms that it will continue to improve personal boundaries and ethical concerns.

Concerns were first documented by Nina Jane Patel, Vice-President for Kabuni Ventures, who, in December of last year, claims she was verbally and sexually harassed by up to four male avatars “within 60 seconds of joining” Horizon Worlds.

Plans to improve the ethics of the Horizon platform are ongoing after Meta secured roughly 50 million USD in September last year to ‘ethically and responsibly’ build the Metaverse.

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