By Elizabeth Hyman
February 3, 2021 at 5:00 am ET
Simulated surgical training, remote health care, enhanced and connected urban design, clean energy innovation, virtual scenario-based training for law enforcement and firefighters, taking classes at home — these are all activities in our society that benefit from and are increasingly using augmented reality, virtual reality, and mixed reality – collectively known as XR technology.
As Americans adapt to the implications of distance learning, telework, telemedicine and other necessities that come with a global pandemic, many of us are learning how XR can help us to find better and more effective ways to connect, communicate, collaborate and learn.
With these technologies rapidly gaining traction, it is vital that we all work to promote the responsible development and adoption of XR technology. But as we have seen with many emerging technologies, realizing the benefits that XR technology offers to society will require robust public-private partnerships. This translates to a commitment to congressional support for research and development.
Absent R&D investment as part of a coordinated national strategy on advanced technologies, we risk jeopardizing American leadership in XR and creating a pathway for other nations who do not share our values to control its future.
Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle introduced legislation in the 116th Congress to fund R&D in artificial intelligence, quantum computing and robotics, among other things. These bills highlighted the transformative nature of emerging technologies and the need for the government to provide the support necessary to ensure the U.S. remains at the forefront of innovation and adoption. The XR Association not only supports and urges congressional leaders to pass these important pieces of legislation outlined below when they are reintroduced in the 117th Congress, but also to include XR among the list of technologies they advance.
America Competes Act. First enacted in 2007, the Competes Act seeks to enhance America’s competitiveness through science and technology. By including XR technology in this legislation, the barriers can be lowered allowing more Americans to access this tool, which will lead to more educational equity and a greater talent pool in many industries.
RISE Act. Due to the pandemic, many R&D projects have waned, including some in the XR space. Yet these initiatives, if completed, could change the way Americans do business and contribute to the overall economy. The RISE Act seeks to reinvigorate these programs. With XR technology included, the RISE Act would allow successful technologies to come to market and positively impact society.
Endless Frontier Act. The Endless Frontier Act signals a significant effort to stake out U.S. leadership in technology innovation by expanding the National Science Foundation and advancing 10 critical focus areas ranging from robotics to natural disaster prevention. Including XR technologies in the Endless Frontier Act could help advance solutions that will improve lives.
To ensure the United States remains the leader in bringing to market innovative technologies, Congress must prioritize investment in XR R&D at science foundations, universities and national laboratories. These institutions are working alongside industry to create the next generation of technology to meet the demands of tomorrow, not yesterday. The consensus among advanced nations is that XR technology will go well beyond entertainment and gaming to revolutionize nearly all aspects our everyday lives — impacting the way we learn, do business and provide essential human services.
We cannot afford to wait. The United States must prioritize XR technology for R&D funding in 2021 if we are to stay ahead of the global curve, ensuring the strength of U.S. competitiveness and improving the lives of Americans.
Elizabeth Hyman is the chief executive officer of the XR Association, the trade association representing the technology manufacturers that power the virtual, augmented and mixed reality industries.
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