Google explores troll prevention in VR

Google's Daydream Lab VR dog Image copyright Google
Image caption Playing poker in the role of a dog could help to deter trolls in virtual reality

Google is exploring ways to prevent players harassing each other in virtual reality.

The company's Daydream Labs has been experimenting with ways to deter people from making others feel unsafe or uncomfortable.

One demo for the HTC Vive encouraged respect among poker players by representing them with avatars of dogs.

The experiments have been designed to discourage behaviour that may distress others.

In one, players standing to approach their opponent are encouraged to sit down by the screen turning black and white.

They are also guided back to their seat by a coloured personal space bubble, and the fact their opponent could no longer see their avatar.

Image copyright Google
Image caption Once the player stands up, the screen goes black and white and their opponent is left looking around for them

"If we can anticipate the actions of others, then we may be able to discourage negative social behaviour before it starts," Google said in a blogpost.

"For example, by designing personal space around each user, you can prevent other people from invading that personal space."

Virtual reality transports users into virtual universes through the user wearing a headset, and in the case of the HTC Vive and Sony's forthcoming PlayStation VR system, interacting using handheld wireless controllers.

However, such autonomy presents some players with the opportunity to get unnecessarily close to others, which may cause them distress.

Another of Google's experiments rewards players for what it perceives as positive behaviour.

Players in a game where each avatar's digital hands are visible are rewarded, with firework animations, for high-fiving each other, while attempts to punch or shove fail to register at all.

The technology has also been used to help treat people with severe paranoia.

Patients were shown computer-generated social situations to help reduce their paranoid delusions.

"With virtual reality, we can help the person to relearn that they are safe, and when they do that, the paranoia melts away," said Prof Daniel Freeman, a clinical psychologist at Oxford University's Department of Psychiatry.

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