In late 2017 Sony filed documents to patent a means of ‘shadow banning’ users in social VR applications by monitoring their language and comments.
The filing, revealed in early May, outlines a means of “recognizing and tracking” behaviors of a reported user within a given social application. The system looks for “inappropriate” language, gestures and movements and generates a “saftey rating” for that user. That label is then compared to a set threshold, identifying anyone above it as a “griefer”.
Sony Details Shadow Banning In Social VR
Shadow banning that user might not necessarily kick them out of the social VR experience, but it would mean their movements and actions would be invisible to others and they may not be heard, either. Social VR applications give users more ways to express themselves than you could in a traditional game but with that comes increased possibilities for trolling, hence the need for more elaborate monitoring techniques. Facebook will utilize a monitoring system for its upcoming social VR app, Horizon, that sounds similar in principle.
Interestingly, one proposal for this solution includes “a system configured entirely with hardware” that specifically mentions tracking the user’s movement and even their gaze. Presumably, these would be features included in the headset itself. Another suggestion mentions using an “agent” placed within the application to judge any possible offenses.
While features like these may be necessary as VR expands, it also calls into question the security and privacy of any user’s actions within that social VR experience. Figuring out that balance will no doubt be a challenge for social VR app makers in the future.
It’s also interesting to note that Sony filed this document after PSVR’s release in 2016 and that the company doesn’t really have any big social apps to its own name on the platform. Could this be an indicator that Sony is indeed planning to launch a more robust social VR feature for the upcoming PS5 VR headset? We did report last month that the company had renewed the trademark for its PS3-era social VR service, PlayStation Home, so anything’s possible.
What do you think about Sony’s shadow banning proposal? Let us know in the comments below!