Pokémon Go and the ethics of VR

The streets are full of people staring at their digital devices and making uncanny shapes.

With the long school holidays (here in the UK at least) at full swing, the streets are full of people staring at their digital devices and making uncanny shapes.   

They are of course gathering their Pokémon characters from the wild.

At the same time, the newspapers are full of good- and bad-news stories.  Kids are excited to play outside.  Families can go hunting together. But players can become easy targets for thieves.   Players are becoming burglars, playing at inappropriate moments - and getting hurt.

A perfect time then for the Journal of Information, Communication and Ethics in Society to publish an article on the ethical and social impact of augmented visual field devices (AVFDs).

The authors discuss the ethics of AVFDs in the light of perception ownership, identity, privacy and transparency. 

  • The wide range of potential uses of AVFDs means that shared experiences can come into conflict with concerns over privacy and autonomy.
  • The developer has at least two kinds of control – deciding what people can see and when and how much control each user has over the images they see – e.g. who should see an image when users are in close proximity?  Deciding who sees what when is a question of ethics
  • Should someone be allowed to own a visual experience in a public space?
  • Social dynamics – AVFDs may be invisible to others – are users paying attention to ‘the real world’?
  • Use of AVFDs might lead to a loss of shared experiences
  • Who is in control – how hackable are AVFDs?
  • Can we trust what we perceive to be true?

The article asks big questions.  It is available open access until 2nd August 2016.