The inquiry, led by the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, will examine the development of immersive technologies such as virtual and augmented reality, and the potential impact these could have in the worlds of sport, entertainment and news. The inquiry will also look at how the addictive nature of some technologies can affect users’ engagement with gaming and social media, particularly amongst younger people.
There is a clear interaction between immersive technologies and individuals’ data. The Immersive and Addictive Technologies inquiry will explore the potential impacts of this interaction, and examine government efforts to deliver the necessary policy, infrastructure and regulation and keep pace with the increasing digitisation and ‘gamification’ of people’s lives.
According to Ofcom’s ‘Communications Market Report’, people in the UK check their smartphone every 12 minutes, and one in five people spend more than 40 hours a week online. Spending on gaming in the UK hit a record £5.11 billion in 2017, up 12.4% on the previous year, while the eSports industry (competitive video gaming) is also booming with multiplayer games watched by spectators online or in person. According to the British eSports Association, by 2020, global eSports revenues are expected to reach £1billion, with a worldwide audience of around 600 million viewers.
Damian Collins, Chair of the DCMS Committee, said:
“The way we interact with cutting-edge technologies is life-changing for our generation and generations to come. We have the opportunity now to shape that development, setting an agenda that benefits our economy and how we spend our leisure time, while ensuring the right safeguards are built in.
“We’re seeing industries emerge that offer enormous potential for growth such as eSports and gaming where the UK is rightly regarded as a world leader in production. We’ll be looking at what action is needed to ensure we remain a key player. Technology such as virtual reality and augmented reality is already an important asset to the film industry, simulated training, and gaming. We want to understand more about its potential and the future impact it could have on society. The development of ‘deep fake’ augmented reality films, is already a cause for concern because of their potentially disruptive impact in spreading disinformation.
“During our recent inquiries, the committee has heard repeated concerns about the impact to society of the increasing amounts of time that people spend immersed in online worlds, and the potentially addictive nature of social media and gaming. We want to explore these concerns during this inquiry and consider what the right response should be in setting public policy for the future.
“The Committee will also consider how individuals’ online data is used by immersive technologies and what security is offered. The Government has recently pledged to make the UK ‘the safest place to be online and the best place to start and grow a digital business’.”
Terms of Reference
The Committee seeks written submissions that address the following issues:
The immersive media industry: what factors have led to the UK’s success in the gaming sector? What skills are needed, and what action should the Government take, to ensure the UK remains a key player in gaming and VR/AR? Is the funding to support digital technologies and skills being allocated appropriately? What has been the impact of Video Games Tax Relief, and what opportunities might there be to build on it?
The future of eSports in the UK: what is the future for the industry, in terms of future growth, ethics and regulation? How might the links between traditional sports and their electronic counterparts be strengthened?
The wider uses of “gamification” and VR/AR: how is “gamification” being used to promote positive outcomes? How are other industries and art forms using gaming and VR/AR? What are the limitations or challenges of “gamification”? How successfully is the Government’s ‘Culture is Digital’ agenda advancing immersive technologies?
Tackling digital and gaming addiction: what are digital addiction and gaming addiction, and how do they differ from other forms? What is the scale of the problem and what support do those with digital or gaming addiction need? What role does design play in gaming addiction, or the addictive use of social media, and how might that be managed? Are extra measures needed to protect children from these forms of addiction? How well co-ordinated are Government efforts on these forms of addiction? What can be learned from other countries?
The links between gaming and gambling: what are the links between gaming and gambling? What are the effects of in-game spending, especially on children, and does it need stronger monitoring or regulation? What challenges and opportunities do gaming and eSports offer the gambling industry and how should that be managed?
Data security and infrastructure: how do immersive technologies interact with individuals’ data, and what are the potential impacts of that? Will Government’s telecoms plans deliver the infrastructure that is needed for immersive technologies? How will official bodies such as the Office for Artificial Intelligence and the Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation co-ordinate and share their work? How well are Government responding to the challenges and opportunities presented by immersive technologies?