How Google is Stopping VR Trolls Before They Start

by Jamie Feltham • May 19th, 2016

With the incredible opportunity of social VR comes the inevitable issue: VR trolls. But Google is already working to stop these people in their tracks.

Robbie Tilton, Designer and Prototype on Google’s Daydream Labs team, spoke about this topic during a ‘Lessons Learned from VR Prototyping’ talk at the 2016 I/O developer conference today. Tilton wrapped up his talk about social VR and its amazing possibilities with how it can all go wrong. He brought up a VR shopping experience where two players were standing in a virtual outlet, dressing each other by using position-tracked controllers to pick up hats and glasses and place them on their friends.

The experience was running smoothly until one player managed to effectively blind the other by placing a hat over their eyes. Tilton noted that this may not be a deliberate move to upset the other player, but the issue caused the other to panic over the loss of control and remove their headset. He pleaded for developers to start thinking about “rules and logic” that will prevent VR trolling before it starts up as they create their content.

A more elaborate example involving poker was then brought up to further Tilton’s case. The player whose view we were looking from lost the round on display, and in frustration stood up while their opponent celebrated by shaking his hand. Tilton explained that the player had intended to take their chips back in anger, which you may well expect to be able to do within the rules of VR. However, as the player stood up and made his way around the table, the screen greyed out. According to Tilton, the player disappeared from the world entirely and could no longer interact with it.

In effect, this prevented the player from trolling the other by predicting what kind of actions they may take in anger, including the possibility of “physical confrontation”. The players were also cast as dogs, which is a bit beside the point but still well worth mentioning.

As Tilton mentioned, though, this is just one approach to stop VR trolling, and the systems that developers will have to implement will obviously have to differ in other types of experiences where players can move around and interact closer together. What’s to stop the infamous online teabagging in multiplayer shooters, for example? What do you do in a sports match where one player refuses to serve? There’s an unending supply of scenarios to take into consideration, and every developer will have to think carefully about how to make their work frustration-free.

It’s an important issue to highlight. VR troll’s days might be numbered before they’ve even really begun.

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