How should a 'physical' crime in virtual reality be considered?

I think the physical sensation part is key.

In Runescape, it was common for characters to murder each other. It was an annoyance but nobody could claim there was homicide in court.

But if we’re talking about you being made to feel as if someone is physically hacking you with a machete, that’s quite different.

The first time physical pain is reported from using this product, the company is sued out of existence.
Problem solved.

Just like they banned motor cars after the first accident?

And again, sexual assault does not necessarily entail physical pain. VR suits will specifically be designed to facilitate intimate sexual encounters, with all the appropriate physical feedback. That is a feature, not a bug.

We are a lot more litigious now then people were in 1891, when Jim Lambert was involved in the first U.S. auto accident. If a company tried to release this product without extensive beta testing and safeguards, I doubt it would ever be released.

If it allows people to sexually assault you without permission, it is a BUG.

Nonsense. It is a feature that people want, because it facitilates consensual sex, which they enjoy. The fact that something might potentially be exploited by a nefarious actor does not make it a bug. Not everything we choose to do is perfectly safe. Someone who enjoys driving fast can buy a sports car. The fact that someone might deliberately drive off a cliff with their family on board does not mean that we should ban sports cars.

You might as well say that going to a party and drinking alcohol facilitates potential sexual assault, so you should never do that.

Causing someone physical pain, even if it doesn’t cause any tangible harm or even leave a mark, is still considered assault under existing laws.

You set the clock too far forward in your DeLorean:

I just started reading a Kurzweil book, written in 1999, that makes specific predictions for 2009, 2019, 2029 and 2099. It is amusing. I think skeptics who say we’ll never have/accept certain forms of tech like implanted devices just because it seems so weird to them are misguided, but predicting the trajectory and timing of such things is a mug’s game.

In the early 2000s I read about (real) people implanting RFID chips, and recently I met someone under the age of 20 who was doing that (e.g. they can open their apartment door by swiping it). Then again, implanted medical devices like pacemakers are hardly that new (1950s).

This reminds me of the awful Ready Player One movie where one of the bad guys gets kicked in the nuts in VR and starts writhing around in pain in real life and like… who is selling VR suits that have the CBT feature built in?!?

In short, this is speculative fiction but doesn’t sound like a realistic scenario in any sense.

This is about coerced sex, not just physical violence. If you think it’s unrealistic that VR sensory feedback suits will be developed to enable realistic VR sexual encounters, you live in a different world to mine.

VR feedback suits without a permission system and an off switch and a set of laws already in place that cover the issue.

It doesn’t seem that much of a hurdle to grant the hypothetical and imagine that security might be hacked, or (as I’ve suggested) the people might voluntarily lock out the off switch for a thrill. Or as OP suggested, a paralyzed person using the VR system.

If you’re confident that a legal framework would be in place, what is it? Isn’t that the point of this debate?

I mean, if the security is hacked, we already have laws in place for it like CFAA. If someone is voluntarily locking the off switch, then it becomes a case of he-said/she-said similar to cases when people people get injured during consensual BDSM. It would be viewed similarly to people who do BDSM with real handcuffs, why are you doing that?!?

No real sane person would do it and then it becomes speculation of just how irrational you’re making people in this fictional scenario before it loses all relevance.

What does CFAA say about sexual assault?

That’s not analogous if the perpetrator is not the same person that the victim was intending to have consensual sex with.

If you’re suggesting that no sane person would ever use a VR system for consensual sex, or that it’s inconceivable that such a system might ever be vulnerable to bad actors, then I guess this hypothetical is just not for you.

Difficult to imagine any sexual assault taking place unless there were sensors inserted up inside of you and or around your naughty bits. At this point you are likely playing a game you consented to when you signed in with the usual blurb of things to accept without the company being liable.

Or maybe you signed up to a virtual kickboxing game and you weren’t very good, shouldn’t you expect to get your ass kicked until you learn how to defend yourself? If not, shouldn’t you just quite playing the game?

But perhaps assaults could take place that don’t involve penetrations or physical contact, like someone holding you down and ejaculating in your face. While it may be rude behavior it would likely be something you accepted as part of playing the game. Your option again would be to quit the game.

Tacky though it may be, I’m quoting myself to emphasize that the answer to that question could make the answer to the OP very easy and not at all novel. Physical contact between the victim and the perpetrator is hardly a requirement of sexual assault or similar crimes in some jurisdictions at least, possibly most or even all. As with battery (or assault, where battery is called assault), the element isn’t necessarily physical contact between the perpetrator and victim, but rather physical contact against the victim and caused by the perpetrator. What what actually makes that contact against the victim could be anything, even an object.

Consider the following from the Texas Penal Code:

Sec. 22.011. SEXUAL ASSAULT. (a) A person commits an offense if:
(1) the person intentionally or knowingly:

(A) causes the penetration of the anus or sexual organ of another person by any means, without that person’s consent;

That’s the first definition of sexual assault. It does not require skin on skin contact, merely “caus[ing] the penetration of the anus or sexual organ of another person by any means…”

If, in the VR “sensory feedback” situation, there is physical material from a mechanical feedback mechanism, then that would seem to meet the elements just as surely as if penetration was accomplished by any other instrument or part of the body.

Let’s take this in steps. I own a remote control “robot” with grasping apparatus, drive it up to a woman on the subway and fondle her with it. That seems like clear sexual assault.

Let’s say it’s her remote control robot and she let’s me control it, is that still sexual assault? There might be additional questions, but I’d think so. Allowing control of a versatile device is not inherently consent to being fondled by it.

Let’s now say it’s not a robot in the traditional sense, but a VR body suit and the control I have is through the ‘game’ we’re playing. To me, it seems similar enough to our second case to be similarly considered assault. I would be hijacking the normal use of the device in order to commit assault with it.

Not to mention all the (IMO) hilarious stuff like the infamous WoW funeral raid. Someone would have cried to the cops about that stuff if they could have, I guarantee.