Do children need virtual reality? The question is debated between entrepreneurs, sometimes accused of making a profit on their backs, and the scientific community, skeptical about the benefits of this technology.
Mainak Chaudhuri is project manager for the French start-up Actronika, which develops technologies related to touch in the interactions between humans and machines.
Present this week at the VivaTech show in Paris devoted to digital technology and start-ups, he is convinced that virtual reality is “the first step towards the metaverse” and that it does not present any danger for children.
“They’re just taking part in an experiment; it’s not about taking part in firefighting or being involved in a battlefield. We’re not creating suffering,” he told AFP. .
Nevertheless, concerns are growing about how virtual reality increasingly responds to economic issues. Among investors, Meta, the parent company of Facebook which also owns Instagram and WhatsApp, is particularly influential on this technology.
Although the company has already taken several steps to give parents more control over the content that children have access to, “the problem is that children are exposed to content that does not concern them”, says worries Kavya Pearlman, cybersecurity expert.
At the heart of its concerns: the way in which children can be tricked into becoming content creators without wanting to or exposure to violent and sexual content.
Witness the story of Nina Jane Patel, a harassed British entrepreneur in an immersive experience.
“I entered the common space and, almost immediately, three or four male avatars approached me: I felt like I was trapped,” told AFP. “They started verbally harassing me, touching my avatar without my consent. Meanwhile, another was taking pictures,” she added.
For Valentino Megale, an American pharmacologist specializing in neuroscience, the risk for children is “that virtual reality causes changes in their identity, their emotions, their psychology, while they are precisely in the process of forging their personality”.