November 17, 2016

Director Calo Testifies on Augmented Reality Before U.S. Senate

Lab Faculty Co-Director, Ryan Calo, testified before the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation at a hearing exploring augmented reality. Watch the hearing here and read his testimony below.

“Chairman Thune, Ranking Member Nelson, and Members of the Committee, thank you for the opportunity to discuss the promise and perils of augmented reality.

Augmented reality (AR) refers to a mobile or embedded technology that senses, processes, and outputs data in real time, recognizes and tracks real-world objects, and provides contextual information by supplementing—or in some cases, replacing—human senses. AR differs from so-called virtual reality in that AR users continue to experience most of their physical environment. AR has many positive applications, from training tomorrow’s workforce, to empowering people with disabilities. But the technology also raises novel or acute policy concerns that companies and policymakers must address if AR is to be widely adopted and positively affect American society.

The UW Tech Policy Lab is a unique, interdisciplinary research unit at the University of Washington that aims to help policymakers develop wise and inclusive technology policy. We have studied AR and its impact on diverse populations and discuss our findings in detail in the appended whitepaper Augmented Reality: A Technology and Policy Primer.

Our research suggests that AR raises a variety of question of law and policy, including around privacy, free speech, and novel forms of distraction and discrimination. For example: Will the constant recording of a user’s environment give hackers, companies, and government unparalleled access to the bedroom, the boardroom, and other private spaces? Could the superimposition of information over reality render the AR user vulnerable or unsafe? And are there situations—such as job interviews—where knowing everything about an individual could result in discrimination or subject the AR user to legal liability? Industry must design AR products with these and many other questions in mind.

Thank you again for the interest in our research and the opportunity to appear before the Committee. I look forward to your questions.”