Unfortunately, the Internet is riddled with trolls – people with nothing better to do than heckle other users or make their experience as frustrating or unenjoyable as possible. Inevitably, these trolls will find their way into virtual reality and the impact they could have on a user experience is quite significant. Luckily, Google seem to already be considering how to deal with this and advising developers on preventative measures to implement in their apps.
Robbie Tilton, Designer and Prototype on Google’s Daydream Labs team, spoke about the topic of trolls during a ‘Lessons Learned from VR Prototyping’ talk at the 2016 I/O developer conference. To demonstrate how a troll can impact the VR experience, he brought up a VR shopping scenario where two players stand in a virtual dressing room and apply clothes such as hats and glasses using position-tracking controllers. Everything was going fine until one player placed a hat over the eyes of the other player, effectively blinding them and forcing them to remove their headset. There may have not been any intention to distress the user, but something as simple as blinding the user in VR is a significant issue if abused.
Tilton used this example to emphasise the need and importance for developers to consider anti-trolling techniques. One such example was that of a poker tournament whereby a player lost a hand and proceeded to stand up. That player had intended to walk round and take their chips back in anger but the game recognised this intent and as the player walked around the table the screen greyed out and the player disappeared from the world entirely.
This measure of effectively removing the player when displaying unsportsmanlike conduct is just one method of dealing with trolls as Tilton explained, and the implementation will differ based on the type of game that is being played. With virtual reality relying highly on your sense of sight and touch, taking one of these sensors away from the user will seriously hamper their experience and perhaps even safety.
What’s key here is that Google are already concerned about VR trolls and are already taking steps and offering advice to developers on how to implement safeguards to make the experience enjoyable for all.