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

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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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As seen in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, BBC News, CNN, Reuters,  SharpBrains is an independent market research firm tracking how brain science can improve our health and our lives.

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