Facebook Outlines Social Safety Tools, Updates To Come At Oculus Connect

by David Jagneaux • May 1st, 2019

Today during the Day 2 Keynote at the 2019 F8 Developer Conference in San Jose, CA, Facebook discussed plans for upcoming social safety features in VR and teased Oculus Connect 6.

During the first part of the VR segment of today’s keynote, Lade Obamehinti from the AR/VR team at Facebook talked about building AI with inclusivity in mind, which dovetailed with the recent announcement of a voice assistant in Oculus devices. You can read more about those insights in a detailed blog post on the Facebook tech site.

After that is when Ronald Mallet came on stage from Facebook Reality Labs to discuss detailed avatars, full-body tracking, and more. We’ve got a breakdown of that over here if you want to see the impressive body tracking technology in action.

Then at the very end of today’s keynote is when Lindsay Young from the AR/VR team got on stage. She described her job as working, “on safety and integrity products to make virtual reality experiences an inclusive and meaningful place for everyone.” That includes both preventive systems and reactive systems.

One of the most tangible examples she gave applies to how Oculus runs their Venues app. Venues is a live performance VR experience that lets users view things like concerts and sporting events live with other people. It’s social and a lot of fun and is the next best thing to sitting in the audience in real life. Before you join though, there’s a detailed conduct video everyone watches.

“We envision a world where meaningful connections and communities can form in VR,” Young says. “It’s the next frontier of human interaction.” I know plenty of people that meet up with friends in apps like Bigscreen, Rec Room, and VRChat as if they were real locations.

One of the biggest differences between VR and real life right now is that real life has plenty of socially accepted norms and etiqeutte rules that people mostly follow. You don’t often see people run up to strangers on the street, get in their face, or slap their hands around to be annoying. People don’t often yell obscenities in public or loudly harass someone for no reason, but it can happen online in video games and VR very easily, which is why social safety tools are important.

For starters there are things like “safety bubbles” in which other users will disappear if they get too close to you, preventing them from invading your personal space too immediately. As Facebook rolls out additional features and encourages third party developers to include these things in their apps too, it’ll include more social features like pausing an experience or muting someone so they can’t bother you. Reporting users will send quick video recordings to moderators as well.

“Behavioral expectations are the foundation of the type of culture we want to have in these communities,” Young says. “So if people violate these expectations, they can be blocked or removed from future events. Repeated abuse could also result in a suspension from our entire platform.”

Finally, before wrapping up, Young highlighted the work Harmonix is doing with Dance Central to make it a safe online space. If someone is bothering you all you need to do is give them a double thumbs-down signal using the Touch controllers and that will mute them, freeze them, and send their character into the background or a corner like an NPC so you don’t even need to interact with them anymore. You can give a double thumbs up to reverse it and let them rejoin the experience.

Then at the very end, Young alludes that all of the things she discussed are actively being developed as real features and that they are, “excited to share more at Oculus Connect,” but didn’t elaborate on when that would be. My money is on sometime around October like usual in San Jose, CA.

Let us know what you think down in the comments below!

The featured image was provided by Oculus and all other images were screencapped during the F8 Day 2 keynote livestream.

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