Ready or not, virtual reality is here. And I have some questions.

We all should.

Kristina Podnar
June 22, 2023

Unless you’re a doctor operating on a patient a thousand miles away, or the mother of a teenager getting lost in the world of the latest VR gaming system, you may think such technology is still as far in the future as sending a human to Mars.

But you’d be wrong. Whether it’s augmented reality (think Pokemon Go) or a virtual reality system that lets you explore the streets of Rome from your recliner at home, AR and VR are here. And rather than relying on “tombstone technology” – fixing problems as they happen – there is a group of people working to put policies and governance in place before the technology gets away from us.

I’m proud to be a part of that group, the XRSI-XR Safety Initiative. We’re working to identify and offer solutions to safety and privacy issues before they become endemic, like what happened with smartphones.

We’re not discouraging either businesses or consumers from using the technology. We just want to make sure consumers know what they’re getting into – and that businesses know what the rules are.

Here’s an example: Louis Vitton was sued because, when customers used their augmented reality tool to try on glasses, the company conducted facial scans and stored the information without getting permission. That’s one of the many issues we’re trying to get ahead of.

So whether your company makes or sells AR/VR or you use it as a consumer, here are some things to think about:

  • Where do the lines of responsibility lie? Should a company that uses AR on its website (like Louis Vitton) notify users every time those tools collect and store data, or is a notification on their privacy page enough?
  • For multinational companies, should you have different policies for each country where you operate, or should you adopt the strictest policies across the board?
  • How will intellectual property rights work in the VR world (or the “metaverse,” which is becoming the prevailing term)? VR systems like the Oculus Meta Quest 2 have a plethora of creative apps that let users create everything from paintings to sculptures to pottery. Who owns those creations? The user or the platform in which it was created?

That’s just a taste of the questions those of us in the XRSI-XR Safety Initiative, as well as corporations and governments across the globe, are thinking about. And we need more hole-pokers! If you think of a potential problem, please let me know.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be back with posts that dig deeper into specific issues. Until then, please consider joining us for Metaverse Safety Week in December. Get ahead of the issues before they get ahead of you!

Photo by James Yarema

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