AltspaceVR Microsoft account requirement instituted

Microsoft’s social virtual reality platform AltspaceVR is getting rid of social hubs to combat online harassment, the company announced Wednesday morning. Altspace is also rolling out additional protections by default, and people will need to use Microsoft accounts in the coming weeks — a move that’s intended to help parents keep young children off Altspace.

“Everyone should always feel safe in experiences like AltspaceVR,” wrote Microsoft Technical Fellow Alex Kipman, who leads the company’s AR and VR initiatives, in a blog post. “We have a responsibility to establish safeguards and we look forward to sharing more as we continue this journey with you.”

Altspace is one of the oldest social virtual reality platforms and was acquired by Microsoft in 2017. Over the years there have been several reports of sexual harassment in Altspace, which included complaints about incidents in social centers, which are open spaces resembling public squares and accessible to everyone, and aimed to give newcomers a way to take their first steps into virtual reality.

Microsoft’s response to this now is to close these spaces. The company also enables, by default, people’s personal safety bubble, which prevents others from getting too close, and in the future, people will be automatically muted when they enter an event.

Altspace isn’t the only social VR platform struggling with moderation issues. Meta’s Horizon has tried to make it easier for users to report harassment, and new Meta CTO Andrew Bosworth recently told Protocol that it’s important for the industry to get safety in VR. “I don’t think it’s the kind of thing that can wait” he said.

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