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May “industry review boards” contribute to the wider adoption of virtual and augmented reality for physical and mental health?


Indus­try review boards are need­ed to pro­tect VR user pri­va­cy (World Eco­nom­ic Forum blog):

It seemed like a game when Riley first start­ed the vir­tu­al real­i­ty (VR) maze … A month after play­ing the game, Riley was turned down for a new life-insur­ance pol­i­cy. Giv­en his excel­lent health, he couldn’t under­stand why. Sev­er­al appeals lat­er, the insur­ance com­pa­ny dis­closed that Riley’s track­ing data from the VR maze game revealed behav­ioral move­ment pat­terns often seen among peo­ple in the very ear­ly stages of demen­tia … This is a hypo­thet­i­cal sit­u­a­tion, but the sci­ence of using move­ments tracked in VR to pre­dict demen­tia, and the tech­nol­o­gy to do so, are very real. Cur­rent­ly, there are no stan­dards or reg­u­la­tions as to how this data is col­lect­ed, used or shared.

Vir­tu­al and aug­ment­ed real­i­ty (VR and AR) bio­met­ric track­ing data — micro-move­ments of head, tor­so, hands, and eyes — can be med­ical data. It can diag­nose or pre­dict anx­i­ety, depres­sion, schiz­o­phre­nia, addic­tion, ADHD, autism spec­trum dis­or­der and more about a person’s cog­ni­tive and phys­i­cal func­tion. Because VR and AR appli­ca­tions can detect changes over time in these dis­ease-linked states, devel­op­ing suc­cess­ful ther­a­peu­tic inter­ven­tions will be pos­si­ble.

One solu­tion rose to the top at the sum­mit: the adop­tion of a sys­tem sim­i­lar to the insti­tu­tion­al review boards (IRBs) that exist in uni­ver­si­ties, med­ical cen­ters and com­pa­nies across the world. A tra­di­tion­al IRB reviews researchers’ pro­pos­als to ensure that when research par­tic­i­pants con­sent to become part of a research study, the study is con­duct­ed in an unbi­ased way that pre­serves their auton­o­my, and that the risks of their par­tic­i­pa­tion are min­i­mized. Unlike more gen­er­al tech advi­so­ry boards, IRBs are inde­pen­dent by def­i­n­i­tion, with diverse mem­ber­ship, and are focused on ethics, jus­tice and respect for those who are the source of research data…

Our pro­pos­al is to cre­ate an inde­pen­dent voice in VR and AR that advo­cates for the pro­tec­tion of users. In turn, we believe that these pro­tec­tions will draw more con­sumers to immer­sive tech­nol­o­gy. A sig­nif­i­cant amount of test­ing, iter­a­tion and refine­ment would be need­ed to make a review board strat­e­gy viable. Giv­en the cor­rect lev­el of exe­cu­tion, we are opti­mistic about the poten­tial for this solu­tion to make VR and AR a tru­ly user-friend­ly tech­nol­o­gy.”

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