Extended RealityIndustry Reports

“Thinking Ahead About XR” Report by Bipartisan Policy Center and XR Association

We dive into the issues and solutions proposed by the BPC and XR Association.


This publication, and most tech publications, spend a lot of time talking about the benefits of XR – and for good reason. However, as these benefits scale with adoption and advancement, so do potential risks.

A recent report by the XR Association (XRA) and the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) explores some of these risks as well as potential early-stage interventions. We’ll examine some of the major trends and findings of the report, and look at it in the context of the larger policy and standards movement in XR.

About the “Thinking Ahead About XR” Report

The XRA is an industry organization founded by Google, HTC VIVE, Microsoft, Oculus, and Sony Interactive Entertainment. They’re dedicated to “responsible development and adoption of XR” but also use their industry insights for more by-the-numbers projects. For example, the last time we covered one of their reports it was an industry survey with Perkins Coie.

The BPC is a think-tank composed of former elected officials from both sides of the aisle who work with industry experts to create informed reports that will (hopefully) impact legislation from sitting representatives. To be clear, their emphasis is on politics and society – not XR, or even technology in general, which is where the XRA comes in.

“The Bipartisan Policy Center partnered with the XR Association to bring together stakeholders and experts from civil society, industry, academia and elsewhere to study and identify the relevant issues immersive technologies bring,” read the report’s introduction. “BPC believes the challenges around issues, such as privacy and security, are real, but we also believe the technologies’ potential to improve quality of life and create economic opportunity are significant.”

The full report was generated from feedback from a number of public and private events. These sessions included focus on both the technology itself and on trends in politics. The introduction also included a familiar theme in the policy and standards world: the speed of innovation and the ponderousness of policy:

“Technology generally moves too fast for policymakers to fully react, but a proactive approach to identifying and addressing the challenges can still help minimize harm and maximize the benefits of technology.”

Identifying Policy Issues

Much of the report was dedicated to identifying issues that potential policies for immerse worlds could touch on. These included privacy, security, economic issues, barriers to accessibility and adoption, concerns regarding equity and inclusion, and safety.

“These issues are often interconnected, so people should not consider them in isolation,” reads the report. “Further, trade-offs can sometimes arise between these issues.”


“XR devices rely on sensitive data inputs to function and enhance users’ experience, but these data inputs also raise legitimate privacy questions … An XR device may record information about a bystander’s activities that they may not want or even be aware is being recorded by others.”

The world-facing cameras on XR devices that enable world-tracking in AR and hand-tracking in VR contribute to what some are calling “the era of constant reality capture.” There are already concerns with using these devices inside of private homes, but the rise of head-mounted devices that can be worn in public brings in other concerns.

See Also:  XRSI Releases Report on the Dangers of XR Data Collection

The report specifically addressed that while a user can provide consent for these features, bystanders can’t meaningfully provide consent that applies to other people using the technology. While indicator lights on devices can make others aware of when recording is happening, this is about the best that most manufacturers have come up with.

The report also mentioned the biometric data that can be collected or inferred through sensors on a device can’t be “meaningfully reset” in the event of a data breach in the way that a password can be reset. This set up the next section on security.


“Although XR is an emerging technology, it still connects to and utilizes legacy technologies such as those that make up the modern internet and mobile computing devices … Addressing existing security challenges is important to tackling many of the security risks with XR devices.”

While the data and the volume of data that XR devices and experiences generate is novel, most of this data is generated, stored, and accessed using existing technologies. The report did mention that the kind of data collected might be more sensitive, such as the interior layout of a user’s home.

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The report also addressed the potential downfalls of immersive experiences themselves being accessed by outside bad actors. This has particularly frightening implications in settings like education, and health and wellness.

Economic Issues

“If history is a guide, jobs will be both enhanced and disrupted by immersive technologies and often in unpredictable ways … Education and training should not just focus on making workers more familiar with immersive technologies but should also focus on building complementary skills.”

The report also addressed issues that may arise with companies that have intellectual property in immersive spaces – or that have their intellectual property represented in immersive spaces without their legal consent. Questions were also raised on liability for companies for their handling of data and interactions in immersive environments.

Access and Adoption

“Many populations face access barriers, including affordability, digital devices, and technical literacy … These gaps disproportionately affect workers of color and point to structural factors such as long-standing inequities in access to high-quality K-12 education.”

As far as solutions, the report here recommended community-based initiatives, potentially out of universities or employers using immersive technologies. The report also recommended the creation of more XR training tools designed for people who may not be personally interested in using the technology outside of work opportunities.

Equity and Inclusion

“XR technologies typically require mobility, vision, dexterity, and hearing and are generally not well-designed for those with a handicap or need for assistive technology.”

Here the report mentioned a solution that seems easy but has historically not been implemented in impactful ways within most companies. The solution? More diverse creator communities.

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“Designers, developers, creators, and testers of the technology should represent demographically diverse communities and understand a wide range of inclusivity and accessibility-related concerns.”


“Interactions among users could result in harassment and bullying, which can be dangerous and traumatic … Despite the potential for XR tools to revolutionize educational and developmental experiences, children are particularly sensitive to the potential risks of XR and need appropriate safeguards.”

Ensuring safe interactions in immersive worlds is such a sticky problem that it was referenced as one of the “trade-offs” discussed in the introduction. We know that we can ensure safe online interactions, but we also know that this often comes at the expense of user privacy.

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The Path Forward

“Immersive technologies are just one set of the many emerging technologies we are seeing today … Each technology poses its own unique challenges but they also interact with the other technologies in ways that have significant effects.”

The report also expressed concern regarding the lack of a “comprehensive federal privacy law.” There are categories of personally identifiable information that are protected by federal law within certain kinds of interactions, but for the most part, data is left unprotected. Many data laws that do exist exist at the state level, making them difficult to enforce in meaningful ways.

Standards and Frameworks

The report dedicated a section to listing other organizations working on developing standards and frameworks for safeguarding data and experiences in immersive technologies. The list included XRSI and the Cyber XR Coalition, IEEE, NIST, and the W3C. Many of these and other organizations have released standards, frameworks, and reports linked in this article.

Standards and frameworks are valuable, but are adopted by organizations who then use them internally – they are not legally binding, and organizations are not obligated to follow any standard or framework at all. This raises the question of how much they can really do and when, or if, the government should step in.

“Important questions exist about whether and when government interventions and enforcement are necessary on top of any standards and frameworks,” reads the report. “Standards and frameworks can play a large role in building public trust, improving XR experience, and maintaining adaptability to shifting circumstances that require a rapid response.”

Learn More, Do More

The full report had more information, more insights, and more actionable recommendations. No matter where you are in the XR space, if this article spoke to you and you want more, explore the links above, but also download the full Thinking Ahead About XR report. We’ll leave you with a final quote from the report’s conclusion:

“If policymakers and industry appropriately address the challenges of XR, immersive technologies can help enhance human potential and increase quality of life while respecting civil liberties, encouraging safety, and promoting inclusion. However, this is not inevitable and requires proactive effort, considerable research, meaningful engagement, and smart public policy.”

Jon Jaehnig
the authorJon Jaehnig
Jon Jaehnig is a freelance journalist with special interest in emerging technologies. Jon has a degree in Scientific and Technical Communication from Michigan Technological University and lives in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. If you have a story suggestion for Jon, you may contact him here.