The UK’s Office for Product Safety and Standards (“OPSS”) has published a report on “The safety of domestic virtual reality systems”. Technologies including augmented reality (“AR”), virtual reality (“VR”) and mixed reality (“MR”) are of particular interest to authorities around the world at the moment. The OPSS report represents an insight into the thinking of an influential regulator. Here are our key takeaways.
The OPSS report is fundamentally a literature review, seeking to identify the potential adverse health risks associated with use of the technology, the mitigation steps that might be available, and the current “gaps” in the literature for further research. Whilst it refers to field research the OPSS conducted recently, that is not a main focus of the report.
We anticipate the report will be relied upon heavily by the UK’s OPSS when considering the safety of VR (and to the extent relevant, also AR and MR) products in the future. To the extent it identifies potential risks, we expect that OPSS will look for explanations for how manufacturers are addressing those risks. It may have a similar impact with regulators in other parts of the world as they develop their own approaches to these (relatively) new technologies. The work will also be of interest to plaintiffs’ lawyers and consumer interest groups, who may seek to bring claims against manufacturers in this space as the safety standard evolves.
The OPSS report’s examination of “habituation” and of “adaptation” is particularly interesting, with the report noting that habituation may be a relevant factor in reducing certain adverse effects (for example, “cybersickness”), whilst at the same time increasing the potential for other risks (such as balance and reaction time impairment).
The identification in the report of perceived “research gaps” is also notable. These may well become areas of focus for regulators as they consider the right regulatory response to this developing area of technology. Work is already under way on a number of fronts to develop standards addressing safety aspects of AR and VR. The Cooley products team is directly involved in some of that work, and it is sure to be critical for the development of the technology, and its implementation moving forward.
If you would like more information about the implications of the OPSS report and the safety of these technologies you can reach out to Rod Freeman, Ed Turtle or your normal Cooley contact. The OPSS report is available here.