Paris (AFP) – Mainak Chaudhuri talks excitedly about the potential of technology as young women strap their vests and headsets and immerse themselves in the virtual world.
“This is the first step towards the Metaverse,” French startup Actronika Chaudhuri told AFP at the VivaTech trade show in Paris this week.
The vest can give the user the feeling of being blown by the wind, or make the back feel the breath of a monster, and can be used to enhance movie watching, education, or games.
This is a family-friendly vision of the 3D immersive Internet, now widely known as the Metaverse, which blends well with the interactive experiences already widely available to children, such as virtual trips to museums.
However, activists and experts are increasingly warning that wider ecosystems need to begin working on child safety to ensure that the vision of benign is realized.
“The biggest challenge is exposing children to content that isn’t targeted at them,” said Kavya Pearlman, an NGOXR safety initiative campaign that ensures that immersive technology is safe for everyone.
The problem she envisions is that young people are being used as content creators and have improper contact with adults because their children are exposed to sexual and violent material. It extends to the concern of.
The Metaverse has not yet been widely adopted and the technology is still under development, but early users have already revealed serious problems.
A woman’s allegation that her avatar was sexually assaulted in the Metaverse caused global anger.
Concerns about the future of the technology grew as economic opportunities became apparent.
According to research firm McKinsey, Metaverse-linked investment exceeded $ 50 billion last year and is expected to more than double this year.
“We’re talking about a huge amount of money, which is three times the investment in artificial intelligence in 2017,” McKinsey partner Eric Hazan told AFP.
Most important of the investors are tech giant Meta, which owns Instagram, Facebook, WhatsApp and more.
The company is already deploying measures to give parents more control over the content that their children interact with when using a VR headset.
Although Meta and many of its competitors sell immersive products with an age limit of less than 13, it is widely accepted that younger children use this technology.
Pearlman raises widespread concern that little is known about the potential impact on youth development.
“The organization has not yet validated these experiences from a scientific point of view,” she said.
“Still, they allow children to be exposed to these new techniques and are actually experimenting with their developing brains.”
According to the neuropharmacologist Valentino Megale, who is studying this issue, the Metaverse has changed the paradigm.
So far, the general public is only consuming what others have created, but in the Metaverse, “we will be part of digital content,” he said.
“This makes everything we experience in the world more attractive,” he told the RightsCon Digital Rights Conference last week, adding that this is especially true for children.
Experts are worried that the industry needs to scrutinize before corruption begins.
The solution they claim is to ensure that the builders of these new virtual worlds instill child protection in the spirit of their work.
In other words, each piece of software and hardware must be built with the understanding that children may use it and need protection.
“We can have a huge impact on their behavior, identity, emotions and psychology at the very moment they are forming their personality,” Megale said.
“From the beginning, we need to provide an ethical foundation and safety in design.”
One of the most controversial areas of product design is suits that allow users to feel all sorts of sensations and even pain.
Such suits are already manufactured and simulate the pain of electric shock.
These products are intended for military or other professional training.
According to Chaudhuri, the product developed by his company, Actronika, uses vibration rather than electric shock and is completely safe for anyone to use.
“We aim to attract an audience, and we don’t necessarily have to do real-time firefighting or battlefield scenarios,” he said.
“We do not cause pain.”
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