Microsoft is making a handful of changes to AltspaceVR to combat harassment within the virtual reality app. As of today, the company has removed the Campfire, News and Entertainment Commons social spaces. Those were hubs where AltspaceVR users could freely gather and talk to one another. But that same freedom also meant harassment was an ongoing issue.
By default, AltspaceVR’s Safety Bubble feature is now turned on for all users. It creates a barrier to prevent other people from entering your avatar’s personal space. Last but not least, Microsoft says the app will automatically mute new attendees when they first join an event. The company has also promised to increase moderation and improve event content ratings to supplement those changes.
In the coming weeks, Microsoft said it would require people to use a Microsoft Account to access AltspaceVR. As a result of that requirement, parents will have the option to use the company’s Family Safety feature to limit how much time their kids can spend within the app.
“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,” said Alex Kipman, the head of Microsoft’s mixed reality division. “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.”
The changes come as other VR platforms grapple with their own harassment issues. At the start of February, Meta rolled out a feature called Personal Boundary to Horizon Worlds. Like AltspaceVR’s Safety Bubble, it’s there to prevent people from entering your personal space. More broadly, the changes appear to indicate Microsoft is committed to working on some version of the metaverse despite recent reports suggesting the company’s mixed reality division had lost a significant number of employees to competitors like Meta.