It’s been a busy month in governmental regulation of augmented reality. First, the U.S. Senate held its first hearings on AR. Then Milwaukee County threatened to go off the rails by restricting the publication of location-based AR apps.
And now this: the People’s Republic of China has just banned Chinese citizens from using the popular augmented reality game Pokemon Go, and from developing their own location-based AR games. That’s according to my sources at the China Augmented Reality Industry Alliance, who circulated this quote from the State Administration of Radio and Television:
From the overseas practice cases, this type of game has great social risks, for example: in the operation threats to society, geographic information security, traffic safety and player safety etc.
Based on the high responsibility of national security and people’s lives and property, related government officials will organize a safety hearing conference, once the assessment is formed, it will be promptly announced to the public.
Prior to this, the General Administration of Culture will not approve this type of game currently, it is recommended that the domestic game companies should not research, develop or operate this type of game.
Nevertheless, it’s reported that some Chinese developers have already launched location-based AR apps.
Meanwhile, a majority of the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors have wisely chosen–at least for now–to back off from a proposed regulation that would have required AR game developers to obtain a permit before publishing apps that could be used in county parks. As I’ve previously reported, that proposed regulation would be about as flagrant a violation of First Amendment rights as the Chinese decree. During the Board’s December 15, 2015 meeting, the ordinance’s sponsor–3rd District Supervisor Sheldon Wasserman–delivered an impassioned plea to his colleagues to protect his district’s parks from rampaging hordes of Pokemon Go players. One of his colleagues, David Sartori, echoed these sentiments, and asked to be added as a co-sponsor.
Cooler heads, however, soon prevailed. Several other Board members rose to challenge the ordinance, noting that they’d heard about it from constituents, who were universally opposed. In the end, the Board voted 13-3 to refer the ordinance back to committee for further review. You can watch a video of the entire debate here. This doesn’t mean that the regulation won’t pass, but at least it has stepped back from the brink.
Democracy in action, folks. The time has come around the world to be vigilant in protecting the rights of the people in virtual space.