30 Mar 2021

Shaping a New Reality in Immersive Technologies with Standards

Guest blog: Joy Tan, National Committee Manager at BSI, writes on the work of the UK’s National Standards Committee IST/31 on Immersive Technologies.

The increasing importance of immersive technologies 

Now more than ever, the UK is embracing the next wave of digitalisation that will transform workplaces, processes and the way businesses interact with their customers. The immersive technology market comprises of content companies, service companies and technology companies, who develop content, provide consultation and create the platforms and hardware and software for Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR). Immersive technologies are growing fast. The new reality is that the AR and VR market is set to boost the global economy by $1.5 trillion by 20301. BSI recognises the need for new standards to be developed in order to break down some of the barriers that are preventing mass market penetration of the technology.  

How can standards facilitate the adoption of immersive technology 

Given how immersive technology can be a horizontal enabler, it will permeate into various sectorial applications.  The health and safety of users remains a paramount concern for the industry and an area where there is a prominent need for common industry standards to be established. Although there are commonly accepted processes and equipment to ensure health and safety in traditional sectors such as construction and manufacturing, AR/VR devices and headsets are shared devices that contain many facial interfaces with the user. Standardization is needed to provide surety to AR/VR stakeholders that the technology can be used safely.   Work is therefore already underway to develop a new international standard that will set out how to ensure that AR/VR devices are set-up and used safely.   

The concept of safety also extends to setting guidelines for the ideal immersion duration and setting AR/VR play zone boundaries to prevent cybersickness and ensure physical safety. This means ensuring that the user does not bump into fixtures in his physical environments while being engrossed in the virtual world.  

A second priority area for standards development is to ensure consumer confidence in the security of their data; particularly when it comes to user authentication and identity management. As most AR wearables require cloud connectivity, it could expose the user to vulnerabilities such as data interception and theft of network credentials.  

Moreover, the hardware and software components have sensors that track the user’s motion and orientation coupled with a machine learning algorithm to help simulate a virtual environment out of the physical world. The recognition of objects and estimation of distance in order to spatially map a threedimensional environment potentially raises privacy concerns from cameras and microphones that are always on. Standards can help take this factor into consideration and develop industry best practices in keeping our privacy and identity safe.  

Finally, the industry needs to consider how we can add customisation and intuitive interfaces as we ride on this new wave of spatial computing. A human-centred design means tailoring the content to meet users’ needs and context, thereby making the immersive experience intuitive and enjoyable.  

Call for participation  

The UK is proud to have contributed to the formation of a new Working Group 11 Health, safety, security and usability of Augmented & Virtual Reality (WG11) under the ISO/IEC JTC1/SC24 committee. WG11 is tasked with developing standards to ensure various forms of immersive technologies can be safely and efficiently used by enterprises and consumers. The work programme will commence with the following new work items;  (1) Cleanliness guidelines for AR/VR devices in enterprise setting and (2) AR/VR safety guidance on safe immersion, set up and usage.  

At BSI, we have a national standardisation committee IST/31Immersive Technologies which forms the UK’s national position and technical contributions to the international standards development drafts and processes. We are excited to make headway in this area of emerging technologies and invite interested AR/VR developers, designers, manufacturers and others in this industry to join IST/31 to shape standards in this field.

If you’re interested to find out more about the work programme and how you can contribute, please contact IST/31 Committee Manager, Ms Joy Tan at [email protected].

Introduction to NSB

Founded in 1901, the British Standards Institution (BSI) is the national standards body of the United Kingdom (UK). With 90 offices in 31 countries worldwide, BSI also plays a significant role in European and international standards development (into ISO and IEC). BSI develops standards across a broad spectrum of subject matters and sectors, from door commonplace items like door locks to cybersecurity systems to artificial intelligence ethics and everything in-between.  


Laura Foster

Laura Foster

Programme Manager, Technology and Innovation, techUK

Laura is techUK’s Programme Manager for Technology and Innovation.

She supports the application and expansion of emerging technologies across business, including Geospatial Data, Quantum Computing, AR/VR/XR and Edge technologies.

Before joining techUK, Laura worked internationally in London, Singapore and across the United States as a conference researcher and producer covering enterprise adoption of emerging technologies. This included being part of the strategic team at London Tech Week.

Laura has a degree in History (BA Hons) from Durham University, focussing on regional social history. Outside of work she loves reading, travelling and supporting rugby team St. Helens, where she is from.

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