As Reuters reported on February 24, officials told the outlet that the South American nation's Magdalena Administrative court held a two-hour hearing, which included Magistrate Maria Quiones Triana's avatar "dressed in black legal robes."
The trial, which was streamed on YouTube and has amassed over 70,000 views, shows the virtual courtroom decked out with desks, chairs, and even decorative objects like a potted plant and the insignia of the Judiciary of Colombia.
"It felt more real than a video call," Quiones told the publication, adding that the experience was "amazing." Using Zoom for virtual hearings, the magistrate said that "many people turn off their cameras, you have no idea what they're doing."
She also said that a regional transport union brought the dispute against the police, and the case will proceed partially in the metaverse.
"This is an academic experiment to show that there it's possible... but where everyone consents to it, (my court) can continue to do things in the metaverse," Quiones added.
During the proceedings, participants wore virtual reality headsets while using Horizon Workrooms, Meta's virtual meeting space platform.
Despite the judge's positive outlook on holding proceedings in the Metaverse, a platform that allows users to interact in a three-dimensional virtual space, she also acknowledged that the practice only garnered a 30 percent approval rating from viewers.
Though the hearing appeared to go forth as a typical virtual meeting would, there was some "dizzying camera movement and some distorted movements," reported Reuters.
Tech outlet The Street expanded on some of the "obvious flaws" in the metaverse hearing, arguing that "viewers cannot accurately gauge a person's body language or facial expressions to determine if they are lying or showing signs of nervousness or anger," and pointing out that "while the voices are the same as what you would hear in a 3D courtroom, they are not attached to the human delivering them, making the disembodied, cartoonish presence all the stranger."
"Additionally, if an accused person needs to convey sincerity or pained expressions through body language, he is probably out of luck," tech journalist Sabrina Toppa wrote.
A public policy professor at the University of Rosario in Colombia's capital of Bogotá pointed out that using the metaverse as a virtual courtroom needs to come with some technological advancements, and pointed out the implications that may have on social issues.
"You need a hardware to do this that very few people have. And that prompts questions about accessibility to justice and equality," Juan David Gutierrez told Reuters.
Magistrate Quiones concurred with the point that accessibility may be an issue, but pointed out that the metaverse would be useful in trials where a victim wants to take their abuser to court but doesn't want to actually see them in real life.
"We create this illusion that technology is going to make things more efficient, but sometimes, it's the opposite," she said.
The Magdalena district in Colombia has joined the US in using virtual courtrooms, with some hearings in the New York State Unified Court System now being held in Microsoft Teams using the "all together" mode. However, as argued by public policy and law analyst Jeffrey Alfano, Microsoft's version "mimics auditorium seating" and feels "more of a university lecture hall than a courtroom."
"The current technology does not adapt well for trial work, but it does meet a majority of the requirements for efficiently conducting routine conferences and arguing motions and appeals before judges," he wrote in an LinkedIn article.