Ethics in Mixed Reality is a hot topic, and I moderated a panel discussion at SIGGRAPH. This panel was attended by a number of people in the immersive industry including HTC’s Daniel Robbins, who works as a principal UX designer at HTC Creative Labs incubating immersive XR technology possibilities that haven’t already been productized. As a designer of next-generation technology prototypes, Robbins is very much interesting an ethical framework that allows him to evaluate the various different tradeoffs for what type of culture these emergent technologies could produce. He takes a values-driven approach of trying to identify the underlying ethical principles or moral virtues that he wants to cultivate, then traces down a “values ladder” to see how the technology could start to shift culture.
Robbins and I talk about the open questions and challenging dynamics of the ethical and moral dilemmas of mixed reality. I mentioned that it’s difficult to get big companies like Google or Facebook on the record to talk about the ethical implications of emerging technologies before they’ve actually shipped a product with some of those specific features. Robbins advocates that the time to be having these types open-ended and difficult questions is now before we get to the point of producing the technologies, since by that time it may already be too late if the proper ethical frameworks aren’t already in place.
We also talk about a lot of the other design challenges for mixed reality related to progressive trust versus binary trust, the risks of biometric data that may turn out to always be personally identifiable given enough samples over time, the risk-mitigating behaviors of some of the major XR players, the special considerations in figuring out what SDK features should be made available to third-party developers, designing glanceable notifications in AR to preserve your situational awareness and safety, and the challenges of moving from explicit input to implicit input with eye tracking and biometric data.
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