• Mr. Brian Blau, Research Vice President, Gartner
• Mr. John Hanke, Chief Executive Officer, Niantic, Inc. (developer of Pokémon GO)
• Mr. Brian Mullins, Co-Founder & Chief Executive Officer, DAQRI
• Mr. Stanley Pierre-Louis, General Counsel, Entertainment Software Association
• Mr. Ryan Calo, Assistant Professor of Law, University of Washington
* Witness list subject to change
Full Committee Hearing
Wednesday, November 16, 2016
This hearing will take place in Senate Russell Office Building, Room 253. Witness testimony, opening statements, and a live video of the hearing will be available at www.commerce.senate.gov.
Chairman John Thune
Good afternoon. I would like to thank everyone for coming today to discuss the exciting potential of augmented reality technology.
This past Fourth of July weekend, many Americans began to notice an unusual phenomenon: more and more people – far more than usual – were going outside. Suddenly, sidewalks, parks, and local landmarks were packed with people wandering the great outdoors while burying their heads in their smartphones.
These people, of course, were playing the smash hit mobile game Pokémon GO. But by going out into the real world to find and capture digital creatures, they weren’t just playing a game – they were getting their first exposure to the possibilities of augmented reality.
Many of us have heard of, or experienced, virtual reality, which usually involves putting on a headset that covers users’ eyes, surrounding them in an artificial world.
Augmented reality, or AR, is different. AR takes digital information and superimposes it onto the real, physical environment. Rather than closing the user off from the real world, AR adds virtual content on top of the real world.
Pokémon GO accomplishes this by using a smartphone’s camera to record the real world while the game displays digital characters over the image on the phone’s screen.
More advanced AR headsets currently in development and in use by industry have “mixed reality” capabilities that can map the user’s surroundings in real time and allow virtual content to convincingly interact with the physical world.
These more advanced AR devices and techniques show that the potential of this technology goes far beyond smartphone games, and could one day have a major impact on manufacturing, transportation, medicine, and eventually the daily lives of average Americans.
For example, imagine a worker in a factory whose job is to assemble an advanced jet engine for a new airliner. With an AR headset, that worker could see step-by-step instructions floating above his workstation, with the exact spot he is supposed to weld being digitally highlighted.
Or imagine a medical student who can train on a virtual 3D model created from scans of a real patient. Or an EMT in a rural area who can receive real-time instructions from a specialist in a hospital hundreds of miles away on how best to stabilize a patient while help is on the way.
AR technology promises to take all of the information that has been confined to the Internet over the past few decades and integrate it into the physical world, where such content can be most useful and do the most good.
Advanced manufacturing and other industries have already begun using AR for training new workers and have seen great improvements in safety and efficiency. We often hear about technology replacing workers, but AR provides an opportunity for technology to enhance workers instead, by helping them with their training and making them more productive.
In previous hearings this Committee has held on new and emerging technologies, such as the Internet of Things and Autonomous Vehicles, I stressed how important it is for government to avoid jumping in too soon with a heavy-handed regulatory approach.
AR is no different. While there are certainly important policy questions to consider, such as the privacy of user data recorded by AR devices, it is essential that policymakers not unnecessarily stifle innovation. Instead, we should foster an environment that maximizes the potential benefits of this promising new technology.
There may be obstacles, regulatory or otherwise, to achieving the full potential of AR. Like a Pokémon trainer, the job of this Committee is to “catch ‘em all.”
Earlier today, the Committee had the great opportunity to see AR in action first-hand. DAQRI, Niantic, and the U.S. Army Edgewood Chemical Biological Center provided us with a great demonstration of: the DAQRI Smart Helmet and a heads-up display for automobiles, which gives drivers important information without having to take their eyes off the road; Pokémon GO and other Niantic apps; and military-focused applications of AR.
Even though the only reality they could augment was the reality of the Russell building, it was easy to see the potential of this new technology for a wide range of applications. I want to thank them for making their products available to us today.
I look forward to hearing from all of our witnesses to learn more about their experiences with AR and their visions for the future of this promising new technology.
Chairman Thune, thank you for holding this hearing to explore the exciting promises of augmented reality technologies and to spur important discussions on the many policy questions that augmented reality raises.
Over the August recess, I took a tour of Magic Leap’s facility in Dania Beach, Florida. Magic Leap, which will be headquartered in Plantation, is one of the leading, cutting-edge AR companies in the world. And what I saw was truly amazing – not only because this technology will change how we interact with the world, but also because of what it means for growing Florida’s economy and creating well-paying, high-skilled jobs.
And, if I may, Chairman Thune, I’d like to submit for the record a recent piece in Wired Magazine on Magic Leap.
Yes, augmented reality can be used for video games. But it can also be used to educate or do business like never before, spurring efficiency and convenience. And the technology has the potential to break down barriers for those with disabilities and create a safer world for consumers.
One of the big questions is: what does augmented reality mean for consumer privacy? AR devices can potentially record, download, and store vast amounts of information about the real world, including about innocent bystanders who may have no clue they are being recorded. What are we going to do to protect their privacy?
And what must be done to make sure that these devices are secure from hackers and cyber-vulnerabilities? For instance, augmented reality is being used in cars so drivers can get real-time information on their windshields. Will hackers be able to infiltrate that system and, say, block the driver’s view of a stop sign or a pedestrian crossing the street?
How will we protect children from unsuitable augmented reality content? Parents are already struggling to shield their kids from adult-oriented and dangerous videos and video games. This could be an even bigger problem for parents when it comes to sophisticated AR content that may be completely inappropriate for young eyes and brains.
These are the types of questions I hope our witnesses can shed some light on. I share my colleagues’ enthusiasm about this exciting, ground-breaking technology. And I’m a believer in what this growing industry can do for states like mine in creating the jobs of tomorrow. But we also must ask some of the tough questions to make sure that innovation is taking place in a responsible manner.
Witness Panel 1
Mr. Brian BlauResearch Vice PresidentGartner
Mr. John HankeChief Executive OfficerNiantic, Inc. (developer of Pokemon GO)
Mr. Brian MullinsCo-Founder and Chief Executive OfficerDAQRI
Mr. Stanley Pierre-LouisGeneral CounselEntertainment Software Association
Mr. Ryan CaloAssistant Professor of LawUniversity of Washington