Big Tech reformulates “wearables”: privacy issues can lead to regulatory glare

During the launch of Ray-Ban Stories (smart glasses for which Facebook partnered with the brand of glasses), the CEO of social media giant Mark Zuckerberg alluded that the product was a “Important step” towards a time when “phones are no longer a central part of our lives.” As Internet and consumer electronics space companies try to take advantage of portable technology, the next port of call could apparently be augmented reality and virtual reality.

In itself, Ray-Ban Stories is a pair of normal travelers equipped with a camera, a microphone, a set of speakers, and storage and connectivity modules. The product is part of Facebook’s biggest plan to build glasses that enhance the world visually and aurally. . In September last year, the company unveiled the Aria Project, a research project to help Facebook build the “first generation of portable augmented reality devices.” Facebook is also working on the prototype of neural wristbands that would work in conjunction with the AR glasses to translate subtle neural signals into actions using electromyography.

While these modernized versions of traditional products promise to change the use of the Internet, they present a number of privacy issues. Some of the initial reviews of Ray-Ban’s stories have shown that other people don’t realize the glasses are recording, although a feature is included to specifically prevent it. As the use of these products proliferates, it is even more imperative to have a data privacy framework, which is currently absent in India.

This need also became apparent when just one day after its launch, the new Facebook-Ray-Ban product called the attention of the data protection authority in Italy, which has asked for clarification to assess whether the glasses smart Comply with privacy laws. The Italian authority said it wanted to be informed about the measures Facebook has put in place to protect people filmed occasionally, particularly children, as well as about the systems adopted to make anonymous the data collected and the functions of the wizard. connected to the glasses, Reuters reported. .

But Facebook isn’t the only company working in that direction. Augmented reality by itself in limited spaces has only limited use cases. For example, how Microsoft has introduced a “joint mode” as an addition to Teams, which shows all participants in a call together in a virtual space instead of the grid of teams that Teams and Zoom currently offer. However, when combined with laptops, a three-dimensional digital layer of the world is created on these devices that would allow users to interact digitally with various aspects of the world, just as they do today with a smartphone.

Technology companies have been working for years to integrate the connection device as closely as possible with the human body. And the ideas for that have come from the fashion industry. The history of the most popular portable connectivity devices (smart watches) shows the willingness to adapt to these devices. “India’s smartwatch market is booming as more and more people are testing smartwatches due to the affordability factor. Smart watches are now replacing traditional watches and also complement the use of smartphones, ”said Anshika Jain, senior research analyst at Counterpoint Research. In 2016, when Google launched its Daydream View VR headphones, it specifically observed the need for portable devices to be fashion-oriented rather than bulky electronics and built its products with lightweight fabric and foam material. In 2017, Nokia Bell Labs announced a partnership with Belgian FashionTech designer Jasna Rokegem to design sensitive garments that “would act as augmented fashion and smart skin”.

Also in the technological space of the glasses, several players have tried to gain ground on their existing products. Google was the first major technology company to introduce Google Glass – a pair of futuristic-looking glasses that promised to offer its users an immersive connectivity experience. Google Glass was available for retail purchase in 2014, but was soon discontinued. Reasons for its failure included a $ 1,500 price tag (Facebook’s Ray-Ban stories will sell for $ 299) and a number of user privacy and piracy issues.

Amazon has launched a pair of smart glasses under its Echo product line called Echo Frames in 2019. The company launched a second generation of smart audio glasses equipped with its Alexa digital assistant in early d ‘this year. Florida-based Magic Leap, a company driven by Google, AT&T and NTT DoCoMo, launched headphones in 2018 that cost $ 2,300, but basically didn’t live up to pre-launch functionality claims, with the result that only a few thousand units are being sold, according to technology news website The Information.

In a 2019 report, PwC predicted that AR and VR have the potential to add $ 1.5 trillion to the global economy by 2030, catalyzing productivity gains in areas such as healthcare, engineering , product development, logistics, retail and entertainment, while Goldman Sachs predicts that the market for this technology will be worth $ 95 billion by 2025.

Last year, India’s largest telecommunications company, Reliance Jio, announced a new mixed reality solution, called Jio Glass. The company stated that the new Jio Glass was designed for teachers and students to enable 3D virtual rooms and conduct holographic classes through the Jio real-time mixed reality service. Apart from this, they can also be used to hold virtual meetings.

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