November 4, 2015

Life, enhanced: UW professors study legal, social complexities of an augmented reality future

A mockup of an augmented reality mobile phone using a curved LED screen
that renders data for the wearer/user gathered by cameras mounted on one
or both sides.Leonard Low / Wikimedia commons

(November 4, 2015)  Augmented reality is the enhancement of human perception through overlaying technologies that can expand, annotate and even record the user’s moment-to-moment experience.

Those designing coming augmented reality systems should make them adaptable to change, resistant to hacking and responsive to the needs of diverse users, according to a white paper by an interdisciplinary group of researchers at the University of Washington’s Tech Policy Lab.

Though still in its relative infancy, augmented reality promises systems that can aid people with mobility or other limitations, providing real-time information about their immediate environment as well as hands-free obstacle avoidance, language translation, instruction and much more. From enhanced eyewear like Google Glass to Microsoft’s wearable HoloLens system, tech, gaming and advertisement industries are already investing in and deploying augmented reality devices and systems.

But augmented reality will also bring challenges for law, public policy and privacy, especially pertaining to how information is collected and displayed. Issues regarding surveillance and privacy, free speech, safety, intellectual property and distraction — as well as potential discrimination — are bound to follow.

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