Google wants to make virtual reality more social
Wed 10 Aug 2016
Before the launch of its virtual reality (VR) platform this autumn, Google’s Daydream Labs is exploring ways that it can make the whole experience a bit more social, rewarding friendly behaviour and controlling VR trolls.
Google is concerned that user autonomy in VR could encourage bullying, and even curiosity, with distressing consequences. ‘People are curious and will test the limits of your VR experience. For example, when some people join a multiplayer app… they might wonder if they can reach their hand through another player’s head or stand inside another avatar’s body, explained Google UX designer, Robbie Tilton, in an official blog post. ‘Even with good intentions, this can make other people feel unsafe or uncomfortable.’
The blog post noted that Daydream experiments had shown how users could easily irritate and upset others. In a shopping scenario, it demonstrated that a player could pick up a virtual hat and place it over another user’s head and block their vision. In some cases, this would force the victim to restart their whole session.
‘If we can anticipate the actions of others, then we may be able to discourage negative social behaviour before it starts,’ continued Tilton. ‘For example, by designing personal space around each user, you can prevent other people from invading that personal space.’
In one demo, the team found that in a virtual poker game, mutual respect was more likely to be encouraged if the players were represented with avatars of dogs. It also found that stealing could be prevented if the players were dissuaded from leaving their seats. For example, as a player stands up the scene turns black and white and a coloured ‘personal space’ bubble redirects them back to their seat.
A further test focused on rewarding players for positive social behaviour, such as displaying firework animations for high-fiving actions.