MPs examine impact and potential of immersive tech

by Megan Stagman on 15 Feb 2019

This week saw one of the first examples of significant engagement by UK politicians in determining the future of regulation for immersive technologies.

A new inquiry has commenced by the House of Commons' Digital, Media, Culture and Sport (DCMS) Select Committee, examining the development of virtual and augmented reality technologies and the potential implications for multiple sectors and policy areas in the future. In a potential indicator of the Committee's initial concerns, this particular investigation has been partnered with a closer look at the impact of ‘addictive technologies’ more broadly.

As background, each UK Government department has an associated select committee, composed of a small group of MPs who examine policy areas relevant to the department and perform an overall scrutiny role. One of their most important instruments of influence are the inquiries and subsequent reports that they write, to which Government is obliged to respond. The DCMS Select Committee is one of the more high profile of these groups, especially in the wake of its headline-grabbing inquiry into fake news that was undertaken last year, which questioned senior representatives from Cambridge Analytica, Leave.EU and Facebook, among many others.

Moving into 2019, the Chair of the Committee, Damian Collins MP, has justified the scope of this latest inquiry, saying: “Technology such as virtual reality and augmented reality is already an important asset to the film industry, simulated training, and gaming. We want to understand more about its potential and the future impact it could have on society.”

The inquiry can be expected to go significantly beyond a simple market forecasting study, however. In the first week's hearing, Committee Members probed the researchers who were giving evidence on a number of serious concerns that they already have relating to immersive technologies. These included use and privacy of data, physical and psychological effects, liability and responsibility allocation, age restrictions (or lack thereof), and deficiencies in industry standards.

While these concerns were clear, the Committee has also demonstrated its desire to hear from the industry about how Government can play a supportive role for this emerging sector. The Committee intends to establish whether the Government's current funding allocation, tax reliefs, skills provision initiatives, and telecoms plans are sufficient and most effectively directed. Other points of enquiry will include the perceived effectiveness of the Government’s ‘Culture is Digital’ agenda in advancing immersive technologies.

Such an inquiry presents a number of possible routes for industry and expert engagement, from participation in oral evidence hearings as a panellist through to submission of written evidence, and the benefits to doing so are manifold. Not only can stakeholders have their views heard by senior parliamentarians and contribute at this early stage to the shaping of future regulations, but the simple act of contributing to the inquiry elevates the reputation of respondents as engaged participants in the debate.

If capitalising on this opportunity would be of interest to you or your company, then please do get in touch, as we can guide you in this process. You can also sign-up below to be receive all of our briefings around immersive technology, including our upcoming report providing an analysis of the various policy and regulatory issues that companies are likely to come up against as the industry grows and increasingly comes into the spotlight.

Topics: UK politics, Immersive Tech, Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR), Megan Stagman

Megan Stagman

Written by Megan Stagman

Megan provides political analysis and monitoring to emerging technology clients, with a focus on drones and data.

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