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The Battle to Build a Kid-Friendly Metaverse

The Battle to Build a Kid-Friendly Metaverse

tech innovation 2022

Campaigners and experts have warned that the wider ecosystem of the metaverse needs to start working to ensure child safety.

While a young woman puts on her vest and headset and immerses herself in a virtual world, Menak Choudhary talks enthusiastically about the potential of the technology.

“This is the first step towards the metaverse,” Choudhury of French start-up Ekatronica told AFP at this week’s VivaTech trade show in Paris.

The vest can give users the feeling of being buffeted by the air or even feel the breath of a monster on their back, and can be used for movie watching, education or gaming enhancements.

It’s a family-friendly vision of the 3D immersive Internet, now widely known as the Metaverse, and sits well with some of the interactive experiences already widely available for children – such as those of museums. virtual tours.

But campaigners and experts are increasingly warning that the wider ecosystem needs to begin acting on child protection to ensure that the benign vision is realized.

“The biggest challenge is that children are being exposed to material that is not intended for them,” said Kavya Perlman, whose NGO XR Safety Initiative campaign Will Be Safe for All.

The problems she envisions include concerns about children being exposed to sexual and violent material, young people being used as content creators or having inappropriate contact with adults.

Even though the Metaverse has not yet been widely adopted and the technology is still in development, early users have already brought up serious issues.

A woman’s allegation that her avatar in the Metaverse was sexually assaulted has sparked global outrage.

Concerns about the future of technology have only grown as economic opportunities become clear.

‘huge’ money

Metaverse-linked investments topped $50 billion last year, according to research firm McKinsey, which predicts that figure could more than double this year.

“We’re talking about an absolutely massive amount of money, it’s more than three times the investment in artificial intelligence in 2017,” McKinsey partner Eric Hazan told AFP.

Prominent among investors is tech giant Meta, which shares the likes of Instagram, Facebook and WhatsApp.

The firm has already rolled out measures to give parents more control over the content their kids can interact with while using the VR headset.

Meta and many of its competitors market immersive products with a lower age limit of 13 – although it is widely accepted that younger children will use the technology.

Perlman expresses a widespread concern that little is known about the potential effects on young people’s development.

“Organizations have not yet validated these experiences from a scientific point of view,” she said.

“Yet they are allowing children to be exposed to these new technologies, practically experimenting on children’s developing brains.”

According to Valentino Megale, a neuropharmacologist researching the issue, the metaverse has shifted the paradigm.

While the public has so far only eaten what others have created, “we are going to be part of the digital content” in the Metaverse, he said.

“It makes everything we experience in that world more engaging,” he said at the Rightscon digital rights conference last week, adding that this was especially true for children.

Experts worry the industry needs investigation before the rot begins.

‘moral standard’

They argue that the solution is to ensure that the creators of these new virtual worlds incorporate child protection measures into the ethos of their work.

In other words, each piece of software and hardware should be built on the understanding that children can use it and that they will need protection.

“We are potentially going to have a huge impact on their behavior, their identity, their emotions, their psychology at the exact moment,” Megale said.

“You need to provide the ethical foundation and security by design from the very beginning.”

One of the most controversial areas of product design is the type of suite that will allow users to feel all kinds of sensations – even pain.

Such suits are already being manufactured, simulating pain through electric shock.

The products are intended for military or other professional training.

Chowdhury said the products developed by his firm Ekatronica use vibration instead of electric shock and are completely safe for anyone to use.

“We are about engaging the audience and not necessarily a real-time firefighting scenario or a battlefield scenario,” he said.

“We don’t hurt.”

Meta’s Quest VR Gear lets people ‘hang out’ in the Metaverse

© 2022 AFP

Citation: Battle to make a child-friendly Metaverse (2022, June 19) Received June 19, 2022

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