Augmented and virtual reality (AR and VR) technology is creating a new interface between the digital and physical worlds. And when the edges of those two worlds begin to blur, careful consideration of the legal issues is essential.
Right now, virtual reality has many applications across commercial sectors, from training simulations to immersive gaming, and from pain relief and therapy techniques to complex visualisations. Augmented reality is being used to help customers make purchasing choices, for innovative marketing, and for creating interactive environments combining the ‘real’ with the digital.
Amidst pandemic lockdowns and social distancing, the power of these technologies to eliminate geography as a barrier to interaction has never been more relevant. Demand and social need has never been greater for sharing experiences across distances, by streaming live events or bringing people together in virtual environments.
But beyond these current uses, the expected transformative leap for these technologies – particularly augmented reality – will be to blend the digital and physical so that we experience them seamlessly. AR may well come to challenge screens, phones and the other 2D interfaces that we currently use. Advanced mixed-reality headsets are already being introduced; next-generation connectivity plus advanced optics technology may give us wirelessly connected AR headsets which are barely more cumbersome than reading glasses.
Even today, the ability of AR to access and overlay data as part of the seen environment is a potential game changer for business process and efficiency.
Our knowledge of today helps to shape tomorrow
Our experience in the gaming and interactive entertainment world, with content platforms, software providers and integrators and hardware developers, has allowed us to develop a portfolio of skills to support initiatives around this technology, called on by many clients with differing requirements.
VR and AR systems involve two sets of issues – those relating to the physical hardware which the customer buys and uses, and those relating to the content. From a hardware perspective, our task is to help clients understand the legal considerations in bringing a new product to market from design to delivery, from managing IP rights to respecting consumer law regulation, and structuring user terms and conditions.
Our content expertise – whether around broadcasting, livestreaming, hosting platforms or on-demand subscription packages – is proving equally valuable for clients in the VR/AR field. We’re able to help them navigate the requirements, constraints and risk profiles of the various models for developing and distributing content to optimise their offerings.
This technology also brings data challenges. VR/AR devices may gather and process data while they are in operation. So our data experts typically work on finding a path through the compliance requirements to make sure data is handled responsibly, managing risk and achieving clients' objectives.
Advanced AR technology is arriving today, but will be omnipresent in the near future. Next-generation AR smart glasses, when used in a work context, will require integration with enterprise software applications. This could generate new health and safety concerns and may mean employers could gather a great deal of data about their employees. We believe now is the time to start planning for these emerging considerations (and opportunities), combining legal specialism with your commercial imagination to help shape your business' future.