Migration to the metaverse: We need guaranteed basic Immersive Rights

by | Sep 11, 2022 | Technology

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In the coming years, consumers will spend a significant portion of their lives in virtual and augmented worlds. This migration into the metaverse could be a magical transformation, expanding what it means to be human. Or it could be a deeply oppressive turn that gives corporations unprecedented control over humanity. 

I don’t make this warning lightly. 

I’ve been a champion of virtual and augmented reality for over 30 years, starting as a researcher at Stanford, NASA and the United States Air Force and founding a number of VR and AR companies. Having survived multiple hype cycles, I believe we’re finally here — the metaverse will happen and will significantly impact society over the next five years. Unfortunately, the lack of regulatory protections has me deeply concerned. 

That’s because metaverse providers will have unprecedented power to profile and influence their users. While consumers are aware that social media platforms track where they click and who their friends are, metaverse platforms (virtual and augmented) will have much deeper capabilities, monitoring where users go, what they do, who they’re with, what they look at and even how long their gaze lingers.  Platforms will also be able to track user posture, gait, facial expressions, vocal inflections and vital signs. 

Invasive monitoring is a privacy concern, but the dangers expand greatly when we consider that targeted advertising in the metaverse will transition from flat media to immersive experiences that will soon become indistinguishable from authentic encounters.  

For these reasons, it’s important for policymakers to consider the extreme power that metaverse platforms could wield over society and work towards guaranteeing a set of basic “immersive rights.” Many safeguards are needed, but as a starting point I propose the following three fundamental protections: 

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