#1014: Recap of the AR/VR Policy Conference with ITIF & XR Association: Privacy Legislation Still the Biggest Open Question

On October 21, there was a five-hour AR/VR Policy Conference organized by the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation as well as XR Association covering some other public policy issues relevant to XR technologies, but also really focused on doing some foundational outreach and education for policy makers for the types of enterprise, training, and educational use cases for what’s happening with XR technologies. There was a broad range of different representatives from different branches of government talking about how they’re adopting XR, and some of the opportunities for funding additional research.

Privacy was by far the biggest open question that came of the discussions, and so I had a follow up discussion with the co-organizers of the event ITIF’s Ellysse Dick, Policy Analyst at ITIF, as well as Joan O’Hara, Vice President of Public Policy at the XR Association. O’Hara said that the XRA has a privacy working group, and I’ll be really curious to keep track of whatever comes out of that since it would be representing the policy perspectives from Google, HTC Vive, Microsoft, Oculus from Facebook, Sony Interactive Entertainment, and Unity.

For more of a recap of the day, then be sure to check out my live Twitter coverage here with lots of links to XR policy white paper references and links to the different speakers.


Here’s the recording of the full five-hour AR/VR Policy Conference:

Here’s a thread of different human rights/tech policy frameworks including neurorights & different charter of digital rights that should be helpful in looking at how XR can help inform tech policy.

This is a listener-supported podcast through the Voices of VR Patreon.

Music: Fatality

Rough Transcript

[00:00:05.412] Kent Bye: The Voices of VR Podcast. Hello, my name is Kent Bye, and welcome to the Voices of VR podcast. So on Thursday, October 21st, 2021, was the AR VR Policy Summit, which was five hours worth of discussions talking about different public policy issues with XR technologies, but mostly it was to advertise what was happening with XR technologies across different disciplines. I think for public policy creators, just to get ramped up onto the speed as to what's happening with technology. This ARVR policy conference was put on by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, the ITIF, as well as the XR Association. The XR Association explicitly is representing lots of different XR companies, including Facebook and Google, HTC Vive, Microsoft, as well as Sony Interactive Entertainment and Unity. The ITIF tends to take a little bit more of a hands-off libertarian approach in the different public policy recommendations that they're providing. emphasizing innovation above anything else. When there are harms that are possible, then they certainly advocate different aspects of policy. Privacy was probably one of the biggest topics that came up. I think there's only so much that you can do with privacy when it comes to, if it's left up to the companies or the technological architecture. or if the culture is going to somehow educate themselves and decide what the market is doing. But I think in some level, we need some protections or neurorights when it comes to privacy. A lot of discussion with a couple of co-organizers of this AR Policy Summit, and then dig into more of the different issues and topics that were covered over the course of the day, as well as some of the things to look forward to in the future. as well as some of the different things that the XR Association is doing on the side to be able to work on some of these issues. So that's what we're covering on today's episode of the Voices of VR podcast. So this interview with Elise and Joan happened on Friday, October 22nd, 2021. So with that, let's go ahead and dive right in.

[00:02:04.460] Ellysse Dick: My name is Elise Dick. I'm a policy analyst at the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation. We are a tech and science policy research think tank in Washington, D.C. I lead our AR VR work stream, which means I cover anything that's related to immersive technology and public policy. So we hosted this conference because we wanted to really have discussions at that intersection point. And we partnered with the XR Association, which is where Joan comes from.

[00:02:30.347] Joan OHare: And with that, I'm Joan O'Hara, I'm Vice President of Public Policy at the XR Association. XR Association is a relatively new trade association representing headset manufacturers and we have just expanded into the broader ecosystem of developers and end users and others in the XR space. So I am thrilled to be here talking about the wonderful conference that we enjoyed yesterday.

[00:02:56.156] Kent Bye: Yeah, and just to elaborate on that briefly, on your website it says that you represent companies including Google, HTC Vive, Microsoft, Oculus from Facebook, and Sony Interactive Entertainment. Is that still a pretty accurate representation of the different folks that you're representing?

[00:03:11.386] Joan OHare: Well, we've recently added Unity. And in other membership categories, we have some of the smaller developers and we're continuing to build. This was something that was just approved by the board. You've spoken with Liz Hyman, so you know that we started off really tiny. It was actually just Liz for a little while, and now there are four of us. Yay. So we're really getting our sea legs now and ready to expand. So we continue to recruit and welcome people at all different levels within the ecosystem.

[00:03:39.582] Kent Bye: Okay. Yeah. And before we start to dig in, I'd love to hear a little bit more context of each of your backgrounds and orientation to this topic and, you know, a little bit more about the ITIF and XRA and how they kind of fit into this ecosystem. But yeah, maybe just tell me a bit about your own personal journey into XR and how you see where you're at now with both ITIF as well as XRA kind of fits into the larger ecosystem of this topic.

[00:04:03.986] Ellysse Dick: Sure. So from my side, my background is in broader tech policy and specifically areas of content moderation and free speech online. And I came into XR because I really realized that the issues that I was working on on 2D social media and in the broader internet context were going to be moving into the immersive space. And I wanted to be at the forefront of those issues in a place where maybe we still have a chance to get it right because it's early enough. So at ITIF, I ask the hard questions, I try to answer them. Sometimes I don't, I just leave them out there for people smarter than me to start working on. But I think ITIF's role is really to be sort of in this position between industry where a lot of this great innovation is going on and policy where people might be familiar with some broader tech policy issues, but maybe not necessarily the implications of immersive technology for the future of public policy anywhere from workplace policies to innovation, to privacy, to safety online. So I really appreciate the role that I play in this ecosystem. And I appreciate working with partners like XRA, as well as policy stakeholders to really bring together that conversation under one roof.

[00:05:12.559] Joan OHare: My background, it depends on how far you want me to go back. I'm a lot older than elites. In my former life, I was an NCAA head coach for rowing teams at University of San Diego and also Wellesley College. I had been an elite level rower myself for many years, despite the fact that I'm short, but I transitioned to law school because I wanted to get into public policy work after about 15 years in the athletic space. So my first job was on Capitol Hill where I was counsel with the Homeland Security Committee. I made my way up to general counsel and I was on the Hill for about six years. And then I was called over to the White House first to work with the vice president as deputy national security advisor. And then later I was executive secretary of the National Security Council. But when I left the White House, I went to Booz Allen Hamilton for almost a year. Great opportunity, great American company, but I was working on just a lot of defense contracts, which wasn't like the most interesting thing to me. Important, but not totally within my realm of extreme interest. And I actually had lunch with Liz Hyman, who I met through Booz Allen, and she was telling me about the XR Association and what they were about and what they were doing and telling me about some of the policy challenges. And I just couldn't get enough. I was fascinated by all of the questions that this amazing technology raised. And when I was working on Capitol Hill, I spearheaded an effort for our committee on the encryption debate, which dealt a lot, obviously, with technology and privacy policy. And I worked on that for over a year. It resulted in a bill that would have put together a commission to try and tackle some of these questions. My method of operation there was to bring all of the stakeholders to the table, not just the ones that were, you know, on one side of the aisle or the other, but bring in industry, civil liberties, academia, technology professionals, you know, Democrats, Republicans, everyone, law enforcement, to talk about this issue and how it impacted them and what their concerns were. And I found that process to be really rewarding, because when you get people to talk to each other, you start to identify some common interests and common ground. And that's where you're at your starting point for finding solutions. So when I heard about XRA and some of the policy challenges, I thought that this would be something that I would find greatly rewarding, and it's also very important work. So that's, in a nutshell, that's me.

[00:07:42.669] Kent Bye: Okay, well, as I went through and watched the AR, VR policy conference that happened yesterday, that was a five-hour event that you hosted, Elise, and Joan, you moderated a session, but together, ITIF and XRA were the co-leaders of bringing together all these different folks. And, you know, for me as a journalist, I'm covering different aspects of what I see is happening. And then, you know, the Lawrence Lessig is a model that I use a lot, which is there's the culture, and then you have the laws that are coming from the governments. and then you have the economic market dynamics, and then you have the underlying technological architecture and the code. For any sufficiently complicated ethical issue within technology, it seems like it's some sort of weird combination of these things of trying to turn these collective dials to be able to get to a place where we're in harmony. We've certainly seen a lot of how that can go horribly wrong with, say, the network scale of 3 billion people on Facebook or different things that are in the news right now in terms of the ills of social media, of how these networks could be used into a weaponized platform. So I think we're in this middle of like, how do we deal with algorithms? How do we deal with these larger issues? And VR is still relatively small, but eventually is going to be not only adding on top of those, but adding all sorts of new things in terms of our biometric data and privacy. So as I was watching the talks yesterday, I feel like it's starting to kind of just say, here's what the technology is, here's what it can do. But I'd love to hear a little bit more about each of the intentions for why to have this discussion. And what do you see as where this conversation needs to go for starting to educate and bring in these policymakers and lawmakers to be entering into this discussion to be able to make decisions that go beyond what we should expect the culture to do, what we should expect the technology architectures to do. We should be left up to the market dynamics.

[00:09:27.403] Ellysse Dick: So really the idea behind this conference when we came up with it earlier this year at ITIF was that we noticed that there's a lot of really important questions being asked in spaces like this, people who think about this technology every day and really understand its implications. Those conversations are not yet being translated into the broader tech policy conversations that we see dominating news feeds right now for things like social media, for internet safety, for just the general way that we will interact well into the future. And obviously XR should have a role in those conversations, but it's so hard to bring new technologies into these plates, already very full spaces worth a lot of questions already being asked. So the idea of this conference was to really expose tech policy generalists and policy stakeholders to a lot of the conversations that have already been happening. So if you are a AR, VR, XR person, Some of the conversations might sound a little familiar to you, but they were very new for a lot of the people who were tuning in. And we hope that it will serve as a starting point for maybe further conversations led by us, led by people like XRA, but also with the other stakeholders in the space to start really working together to bring this into broader front running policy conversations.

[00:10:43.914] Joan OHare: Yeah, I would second that I think the most important element of yesterday was that the conversation happened. It's so important to bring everybody to the table, I will sound like a broken record on that but it's something I really believe in having such a wide variety of stakeholders, talking about this issue in a public space. not in a boardroom or something, but out there in public with everyone being able to listen in and engage, bringing different perspectives, raising different concerns and, you know, potentially different solutions and different ways to approach these issues. The time is now to have those conversations. I mean, I always say we're sort of in this sweet spot where the technology is developed enough that it's something that we can talk about. I mean, it's not just like a science fiction concept. There is something there. You can put the HMD on and use it. But it's still very much developing. It's not perfected yet. It has a long way to go to be fully mature. So we have something real to talk about that people can relate to. And it's not just abstract. But at the same time, we have the opportunity now to try and work through the kinks and get the policy right before this becomes something that is ubiquitous. And we do expect that within five to 10 years, this will be something everybody has. But that's why it's so important to think through these issues now and have the right policy in place when it is more broadly adopted. So just the fact that we're having these conversations, I think, is so important. And we try and do that at XRA. I don't want to go on too long, but we have been working with the Bipartisan Policy Center for more than a year now. convening roundtables, both public and private, to sort of suss out what are the main concerns here? What are the opportunities for this technology for good? And what are the challenges that we really need to address? And we, again, have brought in academia, civil society, think tanks, government officials, industry, et cetera, to get everyone's perspective and try and work towards solutions. So, you know, the conversation itself is very important.

[00:12:51.971] Kent Bye: I guess one of my takeaways after watching the discussion was that, you know, there's a lot of talk that was happening in terms of digital transformation for using these technologies and having the government actually adopt XR technology and different ways that could be adopted. Representative Delbane was talking about some specific legislation that she had introduced in order to have some usability standards and have more efforts happening within the GSA and NIST to be able to actually adopt some of the XR technologies and come up with some of those standards. But at the same time, there's different laws that get put forth. And with the larger political dynamics, there's been a lot of things that have been suggested and submitted as bills, but not actually even voted on because there's been a little bit of a political impasse. And so the larger political context of this polarized political situation means that any actual laws that get passed or made has to reach a certain threshold. And the only thing that I could see that is really at that point right now are the larger issues around like a federal privacy law. There seems to be bipartisan consensus, but when I talked to Joe Jerome, you know, one of the things that he was saying was that, you know, there's certain, you know, private right to action and these specific nuances, the details that when you get down to the nitty gritty, it comes to an impasse and then nothing happens. So the last that I saw, at least there seemed to be no real big, significant changes in terms of like a bipartisan consensus for whether or not we should continue to let the states continue to pass these state laws or whether or not we wanted to have like some sort of preemption to have a federal law to be able to take care of all these different things. And, you know, if you're going to do that, then is it going to be at the same level of whatever California is happening? So there's a lot of nuances to this privacy discussion that I'd love to hear some of your initial thoughts on that, because for me, that seemed to be the most burning question that was brought up again and again and again, like, what's the most important policy issue for XR? Privacy came up again and again and again, but yet at the same time, there seems to be like this political impasse or the situation where I don't see a lot of progress to having some sort of bipartisan consensus on this specific issue.

[00:14:47.994] Joan OHare: Elise, do you want to feel that first?

[00:14:50.035] Ellysse Dick: I was going to hand it over to you, Joan. I'll just say that, you know, I do think one of the things we are clearly at an impasse when it comes to federal privacy legislation. I think we absolutely need it. And it's very important. I think actually these conversations bringing XR into that discussion can help move us toward reaching consensus. because we're showing that we need federal privacy legislation, not just for the technology we're using today, but also this technology that's right on the horizon. And if we're not putting in the right guardrails right now, it's going to be even more difficult to pass legislation in the future as new technologies come out. But Joan is much more in the weeds on the policymaking side of things. So I'll give that to her.

[00:15:30.640] Joan OHare: Well, I guess I would say the idea of Congress not necessarily making tremendous progress is not specific to privacy legislation, you know it's just kind of the way things work over there it's very difficult and you know in today's climate especially where it's. really polarized and the infrastructure bills have been sucking all the oxygen out of the room. It's difficult to take on a lot of big initiatives. And from my conversations with Hill offices, I know that people are thinking about this and they're having hearings on it. And, you know, the issue of children and their use of technology and their rights and protection. These are things that people are definitely thinking about it. But it's very difficult to actually get things moving. It's just the nature of Congress. So I know that this is something that is it hasn't gone away. I wouldn't say that we're at an impasse necessarily. I would say there's more agreement than disagreement. Kent, you highlighted some of the sticking points like private right of action. But generally, I think people agree that there should be a national privacy law. It's just a matter of when Congress is going to be able to put that at the front of the line. So, you know, hopefully we make some progress on the infrastructure bills and we can move on to other topics. But in the meantime, at least it is still a topic of conversation. And while there might not be a law that people are marking up right now, there are hearings happening. And I think they're asking a lot of very insightful questions. So that's a positive.

[00:16:58.829] Kent Bye: Well, I've been doing, I guess, a deep dive into the weeds of some of the different policy issues or people talking about from a technology perspective, let's say, implications of biometric data, like Britton Heller's work on biometric psychography, as this paradigm shift away from thinking about privacy in terms of identity and thinking about in terms of this information that we're radiating from our bodies, that it's very contextual and relevant to what's happening within the XR scene that you're in, either VR or AR, but that it's revealing your preferences or likes or dislikes that maybe not revealing your identity as personally identifiable information, which is a form of a legal definition. But even concepts like biometric psychography, when I read Representative Delbane's privacy law that she mentioned, which again, which she submitted as a bill, but hasn't even been voted on, even as I read through some of those bills in Congress, none of them really address some of the deepest concerns that I have in terms of concepts of biometric data and biometric psychography and all the implications of XR technologies for where it's going. So I feel like there's not only a lack of consensus on certain issues, but there's certain ways with the new paradigms and new ideas and new thoughts where the concerns that I have around things like biometric psychography and Rafael Justo's Neuro Rights Initiative, so looking at neurotechnologies and having this underlying right of the right to identity, right to agency, right to mental privacy, the right to be free from algorithmic bias and the right to have fair and equitable access to technology. So those newer rights are also seeping in here where we're going to have technology that potentially gets to the point that has enough contextual information that is able to create a digital twin and be able to model aspects of our identity that is gathered from this biometric psychographic data. So that feels like the roadmap for where this technology could go. I see a huge gap between what the policymakers are discussing about it and where the technology is already at. It's what Thomas Metzinger refers to as the technology pacing gap, meaning that technology is like this exponential progress that's so far ahead of the conceptual frameworks of how the policymakers are even conceiving of what the problems are. And it seems like when I look at it, I just see this huge gap of ideas and concepts that go way beyond what even the policymakers in these current discussions are even talking about.

[00:19:05.003] Ellysse Dick: Well, that's why when you hear people talking about technology legislation, a lot of people will bring up making sure that it's technology neutral, meaning that the frameworks and the underlying legislation will apply regardless of the individual pieces of technology that you're talking about, especially as we have new devices and new technologies coming up so much faster. We don't even know really what XR is going to look like in 10 years. It's almost impossible to legislate against that. So really making sure that you have dynamic policy is more important than ever, especially when we're talking about the XR context.

[00:19:36.580] Joan OHare: I think it's fair to say, as much as I love Congress, because I did work there, and I have tremendous respect for the people that are there, but lawmakers do tend to be a step or two behind. So it's not unusual. In my role with XRA, I have been talking to dozens of Hill offices about the technology, but I'm not there to sell a widget. I'm there to educate them and help them understand what this technology is, how it can be applied. And I also do very frankly speak with them about the concerns, especially around privacy and try and get their thoughts on it. I agree that policy should be tech neutral. But as you mentioned, Kent, there's very particular concerns around the collection of biometric data and what can be inferred from that. So what's the right approach? And Congress obviously has a lot of power and could do great good if they were able to pass a law that addressed all of that. But given the deliberative nature, shall we say, of Congress, I think it's important that industry in collaboration with academics, technology experts, civil society, think tanks, are starting to think about what are best practices. It shouldn't be that we have to rely 100% on the government to codify something in order to do the right thing. Industry can start to do that on its own. And given that technology, like you said, is moving at a different pace, I think that's very important and that's why we're trying to have these conversations now and we will continue to educate lawmakers to talk to them about again how the technology works and be very upfront about what the challenges are, including privacy concerns, but I don't think we have to wait in order to put best practices in place.

[00:21:16.988] Kent Bye: I've certainly seen from each of the different individual companies that are represented by XR Association. I've seen Facebook make more public comments about how they want to have some level of federal privacy law. I've seen Microsoft's Julie Brill give testimony to the Federal Trade Commission. talking about how GDPR is out there and the United States is going to fall behind unless we frankly have a federal law here in the United States that is on parity to GDPR. Otherwise, we're not going to be able to do business with the Shrems 2 agreements where there's certain things that get passed where in order for us to do business internationally, there's certain levels of privacy or ethics that need to be followed. In that case, it's around the intelligence community getting access to data, but things like GDPR would be a law that would be in place that would start to potentially address some of those different issues at a federal level. And so everything from Microsoft to Facebook, to Google, to HTC, I mean, that's a wide range of different business models and perspectives on these. And I'm just curious if you see the XR association is going to be fine, what the common ground amongst all these different companies are and what that process is for say us, the public and me as a journalist to know what XR is thinking about some of these different policy issues. And if there's these discussions happening behind closed doors or how to sort of incorporate whether or not there's the, more privacy advocate position, which is maybe more of a nonprofit than what would be represented by these business interests. And so how's that process going to unfold? First of all, from both even managing the discussion amongst all these different companies of what the common ground is, and then from there, how to then have this either public or private conversation about all that with the lawmakers and with the rest of society.

[00:22:53.589] Joan OHare: You know, like I mentioned, the Bipartisan Policy Center initiative that we've been engaged with for about a year, we had an entire session exclusively on privacy. So we are having these conversations and trying to have a big tent, bring everybody under it and have these conversations. But internally also, yes, XRA has been actively working on privacy issues. Again, what are the concerns? What does this sort of boil down to? What can companies do? We have a privacy working group within the committee that meets regularly. And these are topics that we are, you know, we're really trying to ask the hard questions and get people to think about it. You know, it's the right thing to do. And I believe our members are committed to that. But even if you're cynical about business, it's not a good business model if no one trusts you and think that your technology is dystopian and going to ruin your life in some way, no one's going to use it if there's not a level of trust there. So whether you're thinking, yeah, that's the right thing to do. These are corporate citizens. Or if you're thinking, hey, they want to make money and people need to use the product. Either way, it's very important that we're addressing these challenges and trying to rebuild trust with the public. So we've been tackling a lot of the hardest questions that are out there. I'm really plugged into the policy conversations and I bring all of those issues to our members to have thoughtful discussions. They're not easy. They're not easy questions to answer. And there's always a balance there between potentially a business interest and technical or policy solutions to some of these questions, but we are committed to getting there. And the first step is to have these honest conversations and try and distill things to what are the really critical elements and how can we address them.

[00:24:39.337] Kent Bye: A quick follow up question for you, Joan, which is what's the output of this privacy working group? Is there anything that's been published publicly or is this, you know, are they then going to have these private conversations or as a journalist who's very interested in privacy, I want to know if there's going to be anything that's going to be representing some of the different concerns around XR technologies, it's likely going to be coming from XRA. So how can us from the outside keep up to speed for what's happening with the privacy working group from XRA?

[00:25:05.740] Joan OHare: That's what we're working towards is something that will be public. So again, we've been having the conversations since the summer and we meet monthly and every time we make more progress and kind of distill things. I mean, this is a topic that you could go down a million different rabbit holes. So we're really trying to consolidate what we're talking about and get to some actionable solutions. But yes, the ultimate objective here is that we will have consensus for industry principles that will express what our values are what our principles are and to help bring the public into the conversation and and reassure them not only that we're working towards solutions but you know we are actually plugged into these conversations, we know what people are concerned about we understand the different specific issues like neural rights or mental privacy. And we're carefully considering all of that. So I don't want to give a date of when we'll release something, but we are working towards that. And hopefully within the next few months, we'll have something that we're able to publish.

[00:26:06.501] Kent Bye: Yeah, I'd love to hear any other thoughts you have, Elise, because, you know, when I look from the outside from ITIF, I see a lot of recommendations tend to be, okay, take a step back. It's too early to regulate, let the innovation happen. There's almost like a libertarian feel that I get. I don't know if there's an explicit ideology of libertarianism that comes from ITIF, but there seems to be a prioritization of the businesses continuing to just innovate and not let some of these moral panics come out and artificially stop the innovation, which none of us really want. But at the same time, we want to make sure that if there are harms that we are protected. So when you look at this issue around privacy, you know, what do you see as the next viable step in terms of either looking to say what's happening with GDPR? And should we have something that's the equivalent? Or what's the sort of recommendations on privacy from ITIF?

[00:26:53.305] Ellysse Dick: Yeah, I mean, you said it, it needs to be a balance between allowing for innovation and making sure that we have the right guardrails up. So we do believe at ITIF that we should allow for innovation. We don't want to preemptively halt innovation if it's going to ultimately be good for society. But we also want to think ahead and think a few steps ahead of innovation itself and figure out where some of these issues are going to be and where policy might play a role, but also where policy might not be the best solution. Sometimes self-governance and self-regulation is going to be the best solution. Sometimes just allowing for social norms to catch up is going to be the best solution. So really taking a much more comprehensive look rather than just assuming that policy is the answer all the time, that regulation is the answer all the time. And I think you saw a diversity of thought on this at our conference, not just on the excellent panel that Joan moderated about privacy, safety, and content moderation, but even the panels that were talking about things like workplace use and child safety. You know, everyone has the sense that this technology has incredible potential and we don't want to squash it out of the gate, but there are very real concerns, everything from say workplace privacy to even national security concerns that we should all be talking about right now and really think about where policy can play an effective role.

[00:28:07.364] Kent Bye: Yeah, when I hear the broad range of different themes and topics that I could pull out from the course of the day, the diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility seem to be another one of those big topics that could really benefit from either federal funding or support from the federal government to be able to actually support and put forward stuff that either have initiatives internally within the government to help fund and create research or to provide funding for this as an issue to treat these virtual spaces as kind of like the ADA accessibility, you know, to make sure that if you have an immersive presence, that it is accessible. Just like if you have a physical gathering, you need to have for people who are not fully able bodied to have wheelchair access and whatnot. a certain level of minimum standards, that if we are going to create a future of this immersive technology, that this seems to be another area where the public policy may actually force the hands of a lot of these different companies or experiences. So I'd love to hear some different thoughts for how to maybe translate where this discussion is at in terms of the diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility. And if there's a public policy play there, when it comes to how to translate some of these issues into whether or not there should be laws that are passed here by the federal government.

[00:29:14.582] Ellysse Dick: Yeah, I mean, I think this is an area where policy has a huge role to play. Government can definitely act now to really set those baseline standards for accessibility and inclusion in XR. Some of the things I've called for is re-evaluating laws like the ADA, figuring out how that actually translates into immersive experiences and what that means for everything from immersive events to immersive workspaces. Really making it clear to companies, to government agencies, and everyone else what accessibility should look like and setting that framework now so that companies and government agencies and people planning events can sort of plug and play and actually make sure they are accessible rather than going forward and adding on accessibility as we go, which we've seen in the past has not been great and not worked out super well. So I think there's a huge role for government here. I also think government should be investing in equity and inclusion should be investing in equitable access, and should be investing in research to identify how we can best use these technologies for economic inclusion and opportunity, educational opportunity, and these kind of areas.

[00:30:19.116] Joan OHare: Well, I agree with everything Elise said. But this is something that XRA is very serious about. We have a series of developers guides. One of them focuses specifically on accessibility and we have an accessibility working group within the XRA. So it's something that we're very committed to. And I think there are two aspects to accessibility. One is making sure that the technology itself is accessible to people who might have physical impairments. And the other one is how it benefits people who have physical impairments. you know, providing experiences where someone who's in a wheelchair can ski, or if someone who's hard of hearing can enjoy a theatrical production. And, you know, I'm sure you're both familiar with a lot of the use cases, but accessibility and XR, or in my mind, they kind of go hand in hand. So it's definitely something that the government should be investing in. It's something that we're looking at. And when I speak with lawmakers, it's something that I bring up a lot as well. In fact, I've spoken with the Disabilities Caucus on the Hill. Representative Langevin, who is himself quadriplegic, understands the value of these technologies. And we had him come in as a speaker to talk to XRA about his support for the technology. So at this stage, a lot of this is about educating lawmakers. Some of them are not familiar with the technology, or if they are, it's because their kids use it for gaming. So I try and let them know that gaming is wonderful, but that's just the tip of the iceberg. And there are a lot of really important applications here. One of them being helping people with disabilities to potentially have experiences that would otherwise be unavailable.

[00:31:59.022] Ellysse Dick: Yeah. Sometimes I feel like working in XR policy is just shouting. It's not just games into the void and hoping something comes out of that. We're getting there.

[00:32:07.753] Kent Bye: Yeah. And in terms of the underlying technological architecture and the code, I know that there was an announcement October 19th that the XR Association, along with XR Access, creating a whole GitHub to be able to have resources for developers, translating some of these concepts into an actual experience by having some code snippets and whatnot. So that was also exciting to see, but that, I guess, less of a policy level, but more working in a larger ecological sense of trying to bring more resources and energy towards creating resources for developers that can help address some of these issues at the code level.

[00:32:38.207] Joan OHare: That's right. I think a big part of the push with Congress is, like I said, educating them, but also trying to encourage research and development investment. There's a long way to go, which is a good thing with XR technology. And the more lawmakers realize that this is something that is, as Elise and I like to say, well beyond gaming with a lot of different applications and potentially the next major computing platform, it's something we really need to be thinking about now. There's also the broader emerging technology ecosystem and XR is a part of that where other technologies like artificial intelligence influence XR technology and vice versa. So I drafted a white paper last spring on the role of XR in this ecosystem and why it's important to keep it in mind as a part of a larger set of emerging technologies. And we were thrilled that we actually were able to get immersive technologies into the USICA, the US Innovation and Competition Act. which itemizes 10 key technology focus areas that the government wants to prioritize, and we were able to educate them enough that they recognize that immersive technology should be a part of that. So hopefully, you know, if the bill ultimately passes the House, there will be government investment going into this technology, and that will be applied across a broad array of interests and disciplines.

[00:34:05.653] Kent Bye: Yeah, it was great to hear some panelists that were representatives of the US government in some capacity from like the National Science Foundation talking about different investments that are happening within XR technologies related to cognition and learning or represented from the Department of Labor looking at the future of work and ways that the XR technologies are already starting to be potentially used within the context of the Department of Labor. But I'd love to hear other aspects of either people that weren't represented in panels or where you see traction when it comes to XR technologies above and beyond, say, the Reality Caucus, who's enthusiastic about this in Congress, but also where it's actually getting taken up in different parts of the government.

[00:34:42.987] Ellysse Dick: I mean, I'd also add NIST to that list. Obviously, at the very technical level, they're doing some great work on applications and standards of that technology. As you said, NSF, other government agencies that do grant making and funding of projects that are really starting to look at funding different applications, especially in the education space, the Department of Education, Small Business Innovation Research, So if you are just looking at Congress, it doesn't look like there's a lot of interest in XR, but I don't think that's actually true at a government-wide level. I think there is widespread interest in federal government and also at the state and local level of implementing these technologies to improve public service and to also encourage innovation in other use cases.

[00:35:24.918] Joan OHare: Well, an area in particular was addressed yesterday that I've been talking to lawmakers about a lot is workforce development, and particularly with movement on infrastructure and rebuilding America, so to speak, in a lot of ways, you're both well aware of all of the applications for XR, whether it comes to delivery of utilities, transportation, construction, manufacturing, product design, etc. There are applications across the board and it is definitely a priority for I think any lawmaker you speak to, to help create jobs, and to help people be properly prepared and trained for quote unquote jobs of the future which are going to be more technically oriented. So this is certainly a place where XR can plug in and serve interests of of lawmakers, both at a national scale and with respect to their constituents. So I'm actually currently working with the congressional office now to help them think through an XR and workforce bill. And again, this is I'm just throwing it out there. We don't have anything on the deadline here yet. It's not that far along, but we're thinking about potentially could we look at providing grants to community colleges to use the technology and to help students prepare for different jobs. There was recently a college, I think it was in Ohio, that received a $600,000 grant to develop an application for XR and manufacturing. So things like that, where this technology can really help to develop the workforce. And, you know, it doesn't necessarily need to be an IT sort of computer science related program. It can be something like manufacturing or healthcare. But how can we use this technology to help advance people's careers as the economy continues to evolve over the next decade?

[00:37:14.510] Ellysse Dick: Well, and I think Dave Vasco made this point on his panel where he said, we used to be going to CS departments and now we're going to art departments to recruit people for advanced technology implementation, because there are so many opportunities across the board. It's not just a high tech thing anymore. And looking at how we can expand that opportunity, especially through community colleges, is a really important aspect of this sort of whole policy role in the future of XR.

[00:37:41.453] Kent Bye: Yeah, there wasn't anybody that was representing the military branches of any type, because I know that IVAS is something that's big within the army, using the HoloLens and the different contracts they have with Microsoft. But there's also, you know, from the very beginnings of virtual reality, going back to ARPA and DARPA, and there was a representative from NQTEL, which is like a venture capital for the intelligence community. different ways in which XR technologies are being used in an intelligence gathering context and geospatial. So there's certainly no lack of applications. I guess, going back to the policy discussions, though, I feel like the other areas are, say, with children and education and whether or not there is COPPA compliance that, you know, you have to be at least 13. And that actually, because a lot of the XR technologies and the companies aren't even COPPA compliant, technically, you're not even supposed to be using these technologies if you're less than 13, if you're using, say, an Oculus and needing to have an account. or things like FERPA for the privacy around education. And so different FERPA compliance that a lot of the different existing headsets are not even FERPA compliant. So you can't even really use them in the educational context. So there seems to be a little bit of a conflict between the business models of some of these companies who have chosen to optimize around the consumer market for people that are greater than 13, but leaving out some of these other markets, say education, but In terms of children and kids using the immersive technologies, I feel like this is another area that there's not been as much research to know what the long-term impacts as kids are still developing, what happens when you have divergence accommodation conflicts with these technologies that are maybe preventing eyes from developing depth perception correctly. I mean, there's a lot of questions, theoretically, what is happening without a lot of research to be able to make a firm judgment that comes from the government. But this seems like another potential area for policy to potentially step in here.

[00:39:24.205] Joan OHare: Yeah, I mean, the technology, the headsets have not been built for little heads and little inter-pupillary distance. So at this point, our member companies don't recommend use by children. That said, it is being used by children. And in some contexts, it is with a teacher in an academic environment or even within the healthcare system. It's been used to treat autism successfully for kids. So there's a tremendous amount of potential there. And I think ultimately we will get to a place where children are using it and it's helping them to learn and grow socially, et cetera. But right now, from our members' perspective, until we have had more research and more studies and until the equipment is actually built for a small head, it's probably best for it to be limited to folks over 13.

[00:40:15.522] Ellysse Dick: Yeah, I mean, I think research is the big thing here. There's so much we still don't understand that it's very difficult to make recommendations to developers or policymakers about what appropriate use by children would be just in terms of even physical and mental health, not to mention the other aspects of using an XR device. So I think right now the role for policy in child safety in AR, VR specifically really is making sure that research is funded and actually utilized to build out frameworks and best practices.

[00:40:46.150] Kent Bye: Yeah, I think it's worth bringing in the medical context. There was actually a representative from National Institute of Health, Susan Persky, talking a little bit about validating the claims that are being made with some of these different devices. But also, the FDA has been approving different digital therapeutics just recently for curing a lazy eye. another digital therapeutics for using these immersive technologies in a medical context. But I guess in the medical context, the issue that comes up is there's HIPAA protections in terms of treating some of the data as if it's HIPAA protected from the medical context. But I don't know if there's been discussions around taking aspects of the medical data HIPAA protections and applying it to say consumer context Or if that's something that these companies would prefer to not have these classified as medical devices, even though we're on a technical roadmap that is producing lots of data that could very well be considered physiological or biometric data that is usually used in the medical context, but now all of a sudden it's going to be introduced in a consumer context as one potential solution to just treat these as medical devices.

[00:41:47.160] Joan OHare: Yeah, I mean, you bring up a very important question, and I think the notion of contextual integrity has a lot of merit. You know, in what setting and for what purpose is the technology being used? Is it the same if you're playing Beat Saber versus you're in a doctor's office or in a classroom? You know, I don't think that question has been fully answered, but it is certainly an important one. And, you know, I think one analog that we could sort of consider is the use of wearables that are measuring certain what could be considered health-related data. But I think the jury's still out a little bit there, but it is certainly an important question. And I think bottom line, this is a whole other conversation, but users need to be fully informed as to how their information is being collected, what it's being used for, who it's being shared with, and there needs to be an opportunity to have meaningful consent. So that's, you know, one of a host of challenges that needs to be considered, but certainly one that is very, very important.

[00:42:47.229] Kent Bye: Yeah. I'm a big fan of decent bombs, contextual integrity. So glad to hear that that's on the radar of these discussions for sure. Cause I think that's a new paradigm that's going to be very helpful in helping to navigate all of these issues, but yeah, just to kind of wrap things up here. I'm curious what each of you think the ultimate potential of virtual and augmented reality might be and what it might be able to enable.

[00:43:07.374] Ellysse Dick: That's a, Wide question there again. I mean, from the perspective of the work that I do, I think one thing I'm really excited about with virtual and augmented reality is government applications. I think it has incredible potential to improve public services, to make them more accessible to more people and to reduce the cost of government operations and public services to the agencies that are providing them. So making it even more widely available to more people. Obviously, I think a lot needs to be done before that's possible. There's a lot of research that has to happen. There's a lot of investment that has to happen. And there's some more innovation that needs to happen, some more technology that needs to be developed. But that's one of the potentials that I, the policy geek, am particularly excited about.

[00:43:52.358] Joan OHare: I think that the future is limitless. No, really, it's, you know, it's amazing. And we're going to look back in 10 years and think of this moment in time as when XR was in its infancy, where it goes from here. We will see. I mean, if the concept of the metaverse comes to life and we're sort of navigating among various platforms and going to different forums, et cetera, in this space, that would truly be incredible. But, you know, as I mentioned earlier, the opportunity is now to be thinking through these different situations, these different challenges to make sure that we have something that is safe and respectful for the user before we get to that next phase. But the ability of this technology to bring people together, to help people with their careers, it's a unique technology in that it can enhance someone's job rather than replacing them, which is the fear of a lot of technologies. to provide human services, you know, from medical care to emergency medical services, et cetera. The potential really is limitless, but now is the time to be talking through what this is going to look like and to have a vision for it and to work together under a big tent to get to the right outcome. So very excited to see where it goes. And I feel very fortunate to be getting in on this conversation at this point.

[00:45:11.792] Kent Bye: Awesome. Is there, is there anything else that's left and said that you'd like to say to the broader immersive community?

[00:45:16.508] Ellysse Dick: Just that I hope more conversations like this conference keep happening. We really need everyone talking to each other. Policymakers are not going to understand the technology without technologists coming in and showing the potential and the concerns of it. And I hope that if you will do go back and watch the conference recordings or anything that comes out of it, that they treat it as a starting point, not as the definitive answers and really build out from there with their own expertise.

[00:45:40.670] Joan OHare: Yeah, and I would just say, again, as long as people are willing to talk to each other and listen, I think there's much more that each stakeholder group has in common than the differences. And that's what we really need to pay attention to, because ultimately, this is a technology that can provide tremendous benefit. But we need to get it right. And it's really important that we listen to each other and have these conversations. And just to close, I would like to say, Kent, thank you for the opportunity to dive right in. I had to say it.

[00:46:12.280] Kent Bye: Yeah, I appreciate it. Yeah. And thanks so much for putting on this ARVR policy conference. I had a good time attending and, you know, I feel like the policy level is like, there's going to be limits of what we can do from a technological architecture. There's limits for what the culture can do. And there may be some of these different questions, especially around privacy that we can't leave up to a market decision that consumers are making that we actually need, you know, in order to really protect our neural rights and to protect our biometric data and biometric psychography, you know, there's, we sort of need that at a policy level. And I think there's a lot of discussions there that That's the one thing that I would say is the follow-up is to really do a deep dive on just that, because it was a nice overview of all the different stuff, but I feel like privacy is sort of the thing that's the hot topic and that's the discussion and to really push that conversation and to really take these insights from XR and put it into the larger conversation and really say, Hey, look, there's some threats here. We need to act on this and maybe take the insights of XR and make conceptual frameworks that are building us into the future for how to really understand what the technology, where it's at now, where it's going to reach that neutral state. So, yeah, thanks for both of you for helping to put this together and for joining me today to help unpack it all.

[00:47:16.161] Ellysse Dick: Thanks for having us, Kent. This was great. Thank you very much.

[00:47:18.502] Kent Bye: So that was Elyse Dick. She's a policy analyst at the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, as well as Jonah Hare. She's the vice president of public policy at the XR Association. So I've had a number of different takeaways about this interview is that, first of all, well, the big takeaway is that privacy is still by far the biggest open question when it comes to the public policy issues. There's a five-hour discussions about all the different use cases and opportunities for XR. I think the target audience for these conversations were a lot of people that may be completely new to XR and they're just getting ramped up to what the technology even is. Just trying to get a sense for the people who may be making some of the decisions for how it's already being used. I think that's a lot of the efforts of the XR Association is just doing a lot of education. As Joan was saying, she's talking to lawmakers, she's involved with trying to get the word out with what's even happening in the XR industry. Just so that when they get introduced to some of these different issues, they're just not coming out of the dark with no context for what this technology is and how it's being used in different contexts above and beyond gaming. Over the course of the day, it didn't have much of a deep dive into a lot of the nitty-gritty nuances of, say, the large public policy debates. If it was an AR-VR policy conference, I was expecting to get into the weeds a little bit more, into some of the actual policy. it was kind of light on the actual policy stuff. But I was happy to hear that there is both work with the Bipartisan Council, which is from the XR Association, that has been doing this year-long collaboration with this XR initiative with the BPC, and also that there's different workgroups. So there's a workgroup on accessibility, and there's also a privacy workgroup from the XR Association, which for me is probably one of the more interesting aspects of, when you look at the larger discussions and debates, The XR Association is representing not only Oculus from Facebook, Google, HTC Vive, Microsoft, and Sony Entertainment, as well as Unity. You basically have some of the biggest players in all of the XR industry. There's some level of collaboration that must be happening in terms of either a unified perspective on whatever the recommendations for privacy would be, or it could be completely watered down because they can't reach some specific agreement and there's going to be continued lobbying for each of the individual firms. But I imagine that there's going to be maybe some cooperation and collaboration to try to get some level of a federal privacy law passed, just because I think the thing that these companies want to avoid is the fragmentation for how the privacy law may be up to the different states, and then all of a sudden you have so many different fragmentations for how different states have all these different nuanced laws. That's one of the big points of contention with the privacy legislation, whether or not the federal law would preempt all of the other laws. There's stuff in California and Illinois that goes above and beyond any of the other federal protections. To have a federal law, I would hope and expect that it would at least match a parity with what's happening in California, but that's likely not going to happen. I think that's part of the impasse that comes up when it comes to some of these deeper discussions. Joan did say that there's a broad bipartisan consensus that there should be a federal privacy law, but the specifics and nuances for what's actually in it is something that is still yet to be debated. Like Joan was saying, there's so many other things that are happening in the context of politics within Washington, D.C. the privacy discussions has not really hit the top of the priority list. With the Wall Street journals, Facebook files, reporting that has happened, there are a lot of sessions that are happening, but it's more in the context of protecting children based on the reports that were leaked out by Francis Hogan that was talking about that Instagram is harmful for children. Talking about the more 2D social media. A lot of the hearings that are happening in terms of these tech policy and tech ethics issues tend to be around what's happening with social media, not really looking ahead for what's happening with XR technologies. That's yet to be seen in terms of where those discussions and debates continue to go. But I'll be keeping an eye out for what happens with XR associations. This XR privacy working group is going to be something that I'm going to say, Are there going to be some level of, say, Rafael Justa's NeuroRights? That's something that is passed in the Constitution of Chile. You have the government of Spain that's passed a whole charter of digital rights. There are different countries around the world that are starting to adopt different digital rights and NeuroRights that are embedded into their national laws. In Chile, it's even in the Constitution. For me, at least, there's another strong movement in terms of the neurorights and the different neuroethics that are involved with that. Eventually, XR technology is going to be looking at these issues of mental privacy and agency and identity and being free from algorithmic bias, as well as to have fair and equitable access to technology. A lot of the different principles in the initial neurorights I think the right to mental privacy covers quite a bit as a human right, and then how that actually gets translated into the regional laws, I think that's the question. How do you actually specify what that means? But the big idea is that you don't want to have the technology that's able to know more about yourself than you're disclosing, and then it's able to model you and then ultimately undermine your agency. I think this whole concept of biometric psychography is also a huge concept from Britton Heller that starts to define the ways in which you make these inferences. So much of privacy law is really concerned around identity. Well, in these XR technologies, they already know who you are, so it's not about identifying you. It's important that they don't. record all this data that could leak out and then leak your identity, that's still a concern. But the personally identifiable information is less a concern than having all this conjecturally relevant information using all these physiological and biometric sensors that are able to really understand what's happening in your body and how you're reacting to that context, and then being able to map that out to what you're looking at and be able to make these inferences about what your likes and preferences are in a much more contextual way that is more about your psychographic profiling than it is about your identity. I think that's another huge thing that I haven't seen much discussion on at all in any of the different privacy legislations that's happening within these draft resolutions. Lots of different discussions at the ARVR Policy Conference about different legislation that's being introduced, but like I said, none of it's really even come up to a vote. Whether that's a new different privacy approach from Representative DelBene. I think I actually was mispronouncing her name. I think it's DelBene instead of DelBain. Or, there's also the United States Innovation and Competition Act of 2021. That's passed the Senate and it's still waiting to get voted on in the Congress. There's lots of different discussions. I did a whole Twitter thread that has lots of different links of different resources. I'd recommend looking through that. I'll post a link in the show notes. You can go through. Get a Highlights, and you can go back and watch the whole five hours worth of content, as well. There's some panel discussions. For me, the most interesting part is to start to hear from different people from government, just to see how they're thinking about XR technologies, how they're starting to use it. Just an interesting cross-section of different people that are using XR technologies in an enterprise context. But again, in terms of the nuances of the policy discussions and debates, I look forward probably to seeing other forums and maybe even deep dives from XR associations to really dig into the nitty-gritty of some of that. The concern from my perspective is that you want to have a really strong privacy advocate perspective. The XR Association is great in terms of representing the corporate interests, but my concern is that it's not going to go far enough to really protect the privacy I point to things like Raphael Eustace's NeuroRites, I point to Britton Heller's Biometric Psychography, as well as Helen Niesenbaum's Contextual Integrity, which I think has a whole other model in terms of whether or not the information that you're gathering is going to be relevant to the context that you're cultivating. Because XR is all these new contexts, then I think there's still a question in terms of, how much of this information is appropriate to be able to be recording and using for these other contexts. Certainly a lot of this intimate information is required to be actually using this technology, but then how it's used and profiling you and using in these other ways of customization or whatnot, that's where it starts to get a little bit more tricky. But I do think that the Neural Rights is a pretty robust approach that I see taken up from different legislatures from around the world, so it'd be nice to have that also looked at, as well as all these different charters for digital rights here. these different human rights frameworks and how they actually get filtered down into the federal law. Just the other thing that was a big, hot topic and theme was diversity, equity, inclusion, accessibility. There's some new GitHub that was released with the XR Association, as well as XR Access, to be able to start to have those best practices. So, yeah, just generally having research being funded by the federal government, I think, is part of the goal, as well. There are some of the different bills that, say, Representative Delbany had passed to be able to actually have the General Services Administration, as well as the National Institute for Standards and Technology, to start to have a federal organization that starts to look at the best practices and usability for XR technologies, and this kind of digital transformation for how to start to adopt XR technologies within the government itself. There are some different bills that Delbany has recommended that have some funding for that, and other funding, as well. The National Science Foundation, Department of Education, Small Business Innovation Research. There's lots of different stuff that's happening with the government and XR Technologies. This discussion gives you some good launching points to go dig in to get some more information for what's happening. Again, check out the Twitter thread to get a little bit more context on that, as well. So, that's all that I have for today, and I just wanted to thank you for listening to the Voices of VR podcast. And if you enjoyed the podcast, then please do spread the word, tell your friends, and consider becoming a member of the Patreon. This is a listener-supported podcast, and so I do rely upon donations from people like yourself in order to continue to bring you this coverage. So, you can become a member and donate today at patreon.com slash voicesofvr. Thanks for listening.

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