Sony Working On “Personal Space Bubble” For Players In VR

VRChat | Source: Steam


  • Sony Interactive Entertainment has recently published a patent for a system that provides automated intervention in virtual reality (VR) environments.
  • The system allows players to set intervention triggers, trigger conditions, and intervention responses based on their preferences and comfort levels.
  • It monitors a player’s interactions with other players in a virtual reality (VR) environment and identifies triggers based on specified conditions.
  • The system modulates the intervention response workflow based on the interactions and executes the intervention response within the virtual reality (VR) environment.
  • The patent introduces the concept of a “personal space bubble,” a customisable virtual barrier or forcefield around a player’s avatar that defines their personal space and triggers specific actions or responses when other avatars approach certain distances.

Earlier today, we came across a recently published patent from Sony Interactive Entertainment titled “PERSONAL SPACE BUBBLE IN VR ENVIRONMENTS,” filed in November 2021 under Sony Interactive Entertainment Inc. The patent, published last week, describes a system for providing automated intervention in a virtual reality (VR) environment.

In virtual environments, players interact with each other through various means such as gaming, chatting, and virtual meetings. However, there can be instances of inappropriate behavior or misconduct by players due to the anonymity provided by the virtual setting. The patent addresses the need for a system that can automatically intervene in such situations.

Network environment in which a system for automated intervention in a virtual environment may be implemented. | Source: Patent Public Search

“A system and method for providing automated intervention in a virtual environment is disclosed. Intervention settings for a user are stored, wherein the intervention settings for the user includes one or more customized intervention triggers each corresponding to one or more trigger conditions and an intervention response,” reads the abstract for the patent.

“A current session associated with a user device of the user is monitored, wherein monitoring the current session includes analyzing interactions between the user and one or more other users in a virtual environment of the current session based on the intervention settings. One of the intervention triggers is identified as having occurred in the current session based on detecting the corresponding trigger conditions in the virtual environment.”

“A workflow associated with the intervention response that corresponds to the identified intervention trigger is modulated based on the interactions between the user and the other users in the virtual environment. The intervention response is executed in the virtual environment of the current session based on the modulated workflow,” it further reads.

The system works by storing intervention settings for a player, which include customised triggers, trigger conditions, and intervention responses. The player can set these triggers based on their preferences and comfort level. The system then monitors the player’s current session in the virtual reality (VR) environment, analysing their interactions with other players.

If any of the triggers are detected based on the specified conditions, the system identifies the trigger and modulates the workflow associated with the corresponding intervention response. For example, if a trigger condition is set to detect offensive language, and the system identifies such language being used in the virtual reality (VR) environment, it will trigger the corresponding intervention response.

According to Sony Interactive Entertainment’s claims, the trigger conditions may include specific commands given by the player, offensive or defensive language or gestures from other players, the distance between the player’s avatar and other players’ avatars being less than a specified threshold distance, and the volume of the player’s or other players’ utterances exceeding a specified threshold.

Furthermore, the response workflow can be adjusted based on the specific interactions between the player and other players in the virtual reality (VR) environment. Interestingly, the patent uses the term “personal space bubble” to refer to a virtual barrier or forcefield that can be created by a player around their avatar in a virtual environment.

Exemplary personal space bubbles around a user avatar in a virtual environment. | Source: Patent Public Search

The player can customise the size and shape of this bubble by setting different distances from their avatar. The personal bubble acts as an intervention trigger, meaning that when other players’ avatars come within certain distances of the player’s avatar, specific actions or responses can be triggered within the virtual environment.

The personal bubble helps define the player’s personal space within the virtual environment and allows them to enforce boundaries or rules for interactions with other players. Additionally, the radius of the personal bubble defines different tiers or levels of proximity between the player’s avatar and other players’ avatars in the virtual environment.

By setting different distances for each tier, the player can establish boundaries or thresholds for triggering specific intervention responses. For example, the player may have a larger radius for the first tier, indicating a more relaxed personal space, and a smaller radius for the second or third tier, indicating a stricter personal space.

When another player’s avatar enters one of these tiers, it can trigger an intervention response, such as a warning message, avatar movement, or other actions, to address potential intrusions into the player’s personal space or enforce desired levels of proximity. The radius of the personal bubble allows the player to customise and control their virtual personal space based on their preferences and comfort levels.

Additionally, the patent also discusses a private and public space within the virtual environment, which implies that players may have the option to allow certain players into their personal space bubble and others not. Furthermore, the detection of trigger conditions can be influenced by prior positive interactions between the player and other players. The intervention triggers or trigger conditions can also be customised based on the type of media content engaged by the player.

While the patent is currently only a concept and not a guaranteed implementation, if realised, the system has the potential to benefit various players, including those with mental health disorders or introverted tendencies. By enabling players to establish and maintain personal boundaries in virtual environments, the system offers a sense of control and comfort.

This can be particularly helpful for individuals with social anxiety, agoraphobia, or other mental health illnesses that may make them more sensitive to personal space and social interactions. Introverts, who typically prefer solitude or smaller social circles, may also find value in the personal space bubble concept. In summary, the patent reflects Sony Interactive Entertainment’s dedication to improving the well-being and overall experience of players, by considering the diverse needs and preferences of individuals in virtual environments.

What do you think about this? Do tell us your opinions in the comments below!

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