Child-Friendly Metaverse


Mainak Chaudhuri enthuses about the promise of the technology as a young woman straps on her vest and headgear and enters a virtual world. At this week’s VivaTech trade show in Paris, Chaudhuri of the French start-up Actronika told AFP, This is the first step towards the metaverse. The vest can be worn to improve movie watching, learning, or gaming by giving users the impression that they are being buffeted by the wind or even feel a monster’s breath on their back. It fits in well with other interactive activities for kids that are already widely available, such as virtual tours to museums. This 3D immersive internet is now commonly referred to as the metaverse. However, in order to ensure that the good vision is realized, campaigners and experts are increasingly cautioning that the larger ecosystem needs to start acting on child safety.

The main issue, according to Kavya Pearlman, founder of the non-profit organization XR Safety Initiative, is that children are being exposed to content that is not meant for them. The issues she sees vary from concerns about young people being utilized as content creators or having inappropriate contact with adults to fears about youngsters being exposed to sexual and violent materials. Even while the metaverse is still relatively new and the technology is continually being developed, early users have already identified some significant problems.


The global uproar was stirred by one woman’s claim that her avatar had been sexually raped in the metaverse. As the economic opportunities have become more apparent, concerns about the technology’s future have only increased. According to research firm McKinsey, investments tied to the metaverse reached $50 billion last year and are expected to more than double this year. It’s three times as much money as was invested in artificial intelligence in 2017, according to McKinsey partner Eric Hazan, who spoke to AFP.


The largest investment is the digital behemoth Meta, which owns WhatsApp, Facebook, and Instagram. The company has already introduced policies that give parents more control over the VR headset content that their kids interact with. Although it is generally acknowledged that younger children will utilize the technology, Meta and many of its competitors offer immersive solutions with a lower age limit of 13. Pearlman has a larger worry that little is understood about the potential consequences on the development of young people.


Organizations haven’t yet given these experiences a scientific stamp of approval, she claimed. Yet they let children use these new gadgets, essentially conducting experiments on their developing brains. According to neuropharmacologist Valentino Megale, who studies the subject, the metaverse has changed the paradigm. The general public has up to now only devoured the work of others, but in the metaverse, he claimed, “we are going to be part of the digital material.” He stated last week at the RightsCon digital rights conference that “this makes everything that we experience in that environment more compelling.” He added that this was especially true for kids.


Experts are concerned that the sector needs oversight before the rot takes hold. They contend that the only way to prevent this is to ensure that the creators of these new virtual worlds incorporate kid safety practices into their design principles.


In other words, every piece of hardware and software should be designed with the assumption that children may use it and that they will require protection. At the precise time when adolescents are developing their personalities, Megale stated, We are possibly going to have a significant impact on their behavior, their identity, their emotions, and their psychology.


You need to start with safety by design and an ethical foundation. The kind of suit that will allow consumers to experience all kinds of feelings, including pain, is one of the most contentious product design issues. Such garments, which simulate agony through electric shocks, are currently being produced. The goods are designed for use in professional or military training. According to Chaudhuri, the items created by his company Actronika use vibrations rather than electric shocks and are completely safe to use. He explained, We’re not necessarily conducting a real-time firefighting scenario or a battlefield scenario. We’re about engaging the audience.