Understanding Extended Reality Technology & Data Flows: XR Functions

This post is the first in a two-part series on extended reality (XR) technology, providing an overview of the technology and associated privacy and data protection risks.

Click here for FPF’s infographic, “Understanding Extended Reality Technology & Data Flows.” 

I. Introduction

Today’s virtual (VR), mixed (MR), and augmented (AR) reality environments, collectively known as extended reality (XR), are powered by the interplay of multiple sensors, large volumes and varieties of data, and various algorithms and automated systems, such as machine learning (ML). These complex relationships enable functions like gesture-based controls and eye tracking, without which XR experiences would be less immersive or unable to function at all. However, these experiences often depend on sensitive personal information, and the collection, processing, and transfer of this data to other parties may pose privacy and data protection risks to both users and bystanders.

This blog post analyzes the XR data flows that are featured in FPF’s infographic, “Understanding Extended Reality Technology & Data Flows.” This post focuses on some of the functions that XR devices support today and may support in the near future, analyzing the kinds of sensors, data types, data processing, and transfers to other parties that enable these functions. The next blog post will identify some of the privacy and data protection issues that XR technologies raise.

II. XR Functions

XR devices use several sensors to gather personal data about users and their surroundings. Devices may also log other types of data: data about a person’s location when the

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