Thirty years ago, while working in the Air Force Research Laboratory, I created the first interactive augmented reality system, enabling users to reach and engage in a mixed world of real and virtual objects. I was so inspired by the reactions I got when people experienced that initial prototype, that in 1993 I founded Outland Research, one of the first VR companies, Immersion Corp and later an early AR technology company. Yes, I have been an ardent believer in Metavers for a very long time.
I have also been a long time critic of the field, issuing warnings about the negative effects of AR and VR on society, especially when combined with the power of artificial intelligence. I’m not afraid of technology, but the fact that large corporations can use the infrastructure of metavars to monitor and manipulate people who find social media strange. This is because these platforms will not only track what you click, but also where you go, what you do, what you see, how long your gaze lasts. They will also monitor your facial expressions, voice expressions and vital signs (such as those captured by your smart-watch), while intelligent algorithms predict changes in your emotional state.
This means that platform providers not only know how you work, but how you Reaction, Profiling your responses at the deepest level. I know this degree of intrusion sounds like science fiction, but for those who have spent decades building technology in this space, I am confident that this will be our future unless we demand aggressive regulation.
But what should we regulate?
Most importantly, we need to restrict the level of monitoring allowed in metavers. Platform providers will have access to where we go, what we look for, who we talk to, what we reach and what we touch. This data should not be allowed to be stored for longer than the short period required to mediate any experience being simulated. It will reduce the degree to which they can characterize our behavior over time. In addition, they need to inform people about what is being tracked and how long it has been maintained. For example, if they are observing the direction of your gaze, you need to be clearly informed.
At the same time, there should be strict limits on what they are allowed to track and for what purpose. For example, the public should fight hard against advertising algorithms that monitor your facial expressions, tone of voice, posture, and vital signs (including your heart rate, respiratory rate, pupil enlargement, blood pressure, and your galvanic skin response). Unless strictly regulated, these highly personalized physical responses will be used to fine-tune marketing messages in real time.
In addition, we need to regulate how third parties can manipulate us within metavers. That’s because with AR and VR, marketing will not be today’s obvious pop-up ads, but subtle simulated additions to our world that seem real. If a third-party pays for a virtual product placement in your augmented environment, the platform should inform you that it is a targeted placement, not a vague interaction.
This becomes even more important when third parties connect us with a simulated spokesperson (Simjens I call them). In Metavers, you will be secretly targeted by people who look and act like any other user but are actually AI-controlled agents programmed to engage you in “promotional conversations”. With access to your facial expressions and voice expressions, they will pitch you more efficiently than any used car dealer, adapting your emotions in real time. These simulated agents will be created by intelligent algorithms that skillfully predict which features are likely to be affected – even the way you look – their gender, hair color, eye color, clothing style. You Personally
It is important that we control this domain, and that third parties must notify us whenever we interact with agenda-driven agents controlled by intelligent algorithms. This is especially important if those algorithms also monitor our reactions, for example, to evaluate our posture, our breathing and our blood pressure, enabling communication agents to skillfully adjust their messaging strategies in real time. This extreme level of interactive manipulation Will happen Unless it is formally banned.
Some argue against the regulation, saying consumers can opt out of metavores only if they do not wish to submit to track and profile. I would say that it is naive, because these platforms will become so necessary for how we can access our world, there will be no option to dislike. This is especially true for augmented reality, where critical information will be projected around us during our daily activities. To show how deeply integrated AR will be in our lives in ten years, I point you to Metavers 2030, a short description I wrote showing the magical possibilities of AR Metavers and its intrusive and overwhelming underbelly.
Ultimately, Metavers will enable wonderful applications that enrich our lives, expanding what it means to be human. At the same time, there are very real dangers that we need to avoid. The best way to enable magic while preventing dangers is to control the space aggressively. And before problems get so deeply embedded in infrastructure and business models that we need to do it now, it is impossible to relax them.
The alternative is to live in metavars that feel and feel natural, while behind the scenes, powerful corporations manipulate even the most bidders without understanding our experiences. It is not the future we want, which means that regulation is necessary and urgent. Like it or not, Metavers is coming soon.
Lewis b. Rosenberg is a computer scientist, entrepreneur and prolific inventor. Thirty years ago, while working as a researcher at Stanford and the Air Force Research Laboratory, Rosenberg developed the first functional augmented reality system. He then founded Emerson Corp., one of the earliest virtual reality companies, and Outland Research, one of the earliest augmented reality companies. He is currently the founder and CEO of Unnimus AI, a swarm intelligence company.
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