Meet Victoria Quiñones, Colombia’s New “Metaverse Judge”
Victoria Quiñones leads the Colombian justice system into the age of artificial intelligence (AI) and the metaverse.
María Victoria Quiñones Triana, also known as Vicky Quiñones, made history earlier this year by hosting Colombia’s first Metaverse trial.
Quiñones, a judge at the Administrative Court of Magdalena in the northern Caribbean city of Santa Marta, is known for presiding over “one of the most riotous courts in the country,” as the president of the Colombian Criminal Bar Association, Francisco Bernante, put it.
In an exclusive interview with Euronews Next, Quiñones spoke about her journey in fighting Colombia’s “paper culture” and the future of the judiciary powered by artificial intelligence (AI).
The 55-year-old hosted Colombia’s first court hearing in the Metaversum in February, but has been committed to the digital transformation of the judiciary for almost 15 years.
Magdalena, the small town where Quiñones is based, has some special geographical features. “Almost all communities are very far away; eight hours by car, six hours by car; The roads are not easy, you even have to cross rivers,” she said.
This remoteness inspired Quiñones to explore how technology could help democratize access to justice.
“We had a physical divide, so I thought we needed to build digital bridges,” she said.
In 2012, Quiñones founded a website called “despacho 01‘ – which she still directs and finances – with the simple purpose of providing online case law for her court, starting with the digitization of legal dossiers.
“I found it horrifying that people living in remote communities had to take the bus for eight, six hours just to look at a file. So we started telling them to scan their documents and email them,” she explained.
Her court then set up a platform on the same website where people with a code could access the pleadings.
The promotion of digital dossiers was “unthinkable” at the time, she said.
Around the same year, Quiñones began broadcasting their court hearings on YouTube and allowing those who were unable to attend the court hearings to participate via WhatsApp video calls “to safeguard the rights of everyone involved in the proceedings.”
“We created this culture without paper (…) and in fact there was the same or even greater resistance than now to the metaverse,” she told Euronews Next.
Colombia’s first trial in the Metaverse
Quiñones began fantasizing about using the metaverse for her official acts soon after the pandemic began.
“I started talking about it on my YouTube channel and suggested that it would be great if we could give it a try. Then an attorney for a prospective plaintiff suggested we conduct the hearing in this way, and the defendant accepted that as well. I was pleased”.
The challenge with Teams, Zoom, WhatsApp and similar platforms is that turning off the camera “becomes a principle of good faith,” she said. “You can’t confirm identities and the sense of interaction completely disappears.”
The metaverse, on the other hand, “has a very important sensory element, there’s an immediate sense of closeness, similar to what we feel when we see each other in the flesh,” she explains.
“The identity verification process is also more thorough; there is even voice recognition software.”
Quiñones moderated the legal session on Horizon Workrooms 18, the free virtual collaboration application developed by Meta. All parties—lawyers, employees, defendants, plaintiffs, etc.—appeared in the metaverse with their respective avatars (digital representations of people that look like cartoons, often used in virtual worlds or online games).
Quiñones conducted the hearing in a virtual courtroom modeled on a traditional courtroom. When things got going, the judge listened to arguments from both sides, reviewed the evidence, and made a decision on the case.
The “enormous” potential of the metaverse for the justice system
Using the metaverse not only helps those people who can’t physically come to a court hearing, but could also help those who can’t bring themselves to do so due to the emotional toll involved.
For example, people who have experienced trauma, such as women or children who have been victims of abuse, often find it difficult to confront their abuser.
“In the metaverse, I can create an environment where they feel safe to talk about what happened and confront their abuser without fear,” Quiñones said.
The naysayers will eventually give in, she added.
“Soon, the same judges who balk at donning virtual reality (VR) goggles or even examining digital dossiers will have to deal with intellectual property lawsuits in the same metaverse,” she predicted.
“One way or another, life will find a way not to turn its back on technology.”
What does the future of justice look like?
“It certainly won’t be in the metaverse, at least not in the immediate future of Colombia,” Quiñones said.
Colombia, like the rest of South America, has poor internet infrastructure, “and none of the new technologies can be implemented without that foundation,” she explained.
The country’s judiciary is still working very hard to “break the paradigm of digitization and eliminate paper, as well as improve the process of digitizing the files and the platforms to access them,” she added.
But local pressures haven’t stopped Quiñones from continuing to consider the future of the law. Most recently, the judge worked with her office to use artificial intelligence in certain procedures.
“I want to automate systems where I can see that no human interaction is required,” she said.
For example, to speed up the process of approving claims for damages, Quiñones is working to create “an automated, simple digital form where people can answer questions about their complaint and provide the relevant documents.” Then AI could decide whether to proceed with the lawsuit will or not.”
This could help solve the problem “of the many people suing for the sake of the lawsuit, and also reduce the cost and time required for the first round of legal services.”
Her administrative court also used the large-scale AI model ChatGPT to explain the concept of the metaverse to audiences at the February 15 hearing, which was streamed live on Youtube and watched by more than 68,000 people.
However, Quiñones’ main goal for the near future is clear: “I hope we will help the world to understand that technology not only helps to make friends, to make friends or to buy shoes, but also to serve justice. “