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Congress held a hearing on Pokemon GO and augmented reality. Here's what happened.

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Congress held a hearing on Pokemon GO and augmented reality. Here's what happened.

WATCH | Check out the video above for a summary of the first-ever congressional meeting on augmented reality.

Below is some preview context for the hearing.

Augmented concerns

In the interest of leaving no (virtual) stone unturned, members of the United States Congress are investigating the role government should play in the fast-growing and possibly maligned technology of augmented reality.

Lawmakers' curiosities and concerns were first drawn to AR after the popularization of Pokemon GO, since the mobile game relies on monitoring players' locations and at what/whom they are pointing their phone cameras.

Congress calls on AR experts

John Hanke, CEO of Niantic, Inc., the company behind Pokemon GO, as well as Brian Mullins, CEO of DAQRI, a company who's developing an AR helmet that can overlay useful data in front of the eyes of engineers and mechanics while they work, were invited to speak before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation at a Nov. 16 meeting.

An entertainment industry expert and representatives from research and academia have also been called on to testify and answer questions.

What is Augmented Reality?

Privacy is top topic

Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), not a member of the committee holding the AR hearing, penned a letter to Niantic's John Hanke in July, citing unease about the handling of user data in Pokemon GO.

"I am concerned about the extent to which Niantic may be unnecessarily collecting, using, and sharing ... personal information without their appropriate consent," Franken wrote.

What's so bad about Pokemon GO?

The Pokemon GO game requires players to travel around in the real world (neighborhood, town or state) to find Pokemon. Once arrived at the location of a Pikachu or Bulbasaur, players catch them by some cacophony of pointing their phone's camera at them and flicking their screens (yep).

During their hunting, Niantic stores players' locations and the sights they capture through their cameras, which adds up to "significant amounts of information," Franken cautioned in his letter.

Pokemon Go
(AP Photo/Alan Diaz)

The wild, digital Pokemon overlay the real world in which a player is walking around. (Image: AP)

It's not *all* cautionary

The hearing, titled “Exploring Augmented Reality,” was announced with an optimistic pitch: to "examine the emergence, benefits, and implications of augmented reality technologies."

“Expert witnesses ... will introduce to the committee the potential applications and policy considerations of this rapidly-developing technology,” Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the committee, wrote in the release.

A witch hunt over Pokemon hunting?

It's true that Congress's investigation into Pokemon GO is coming weeks after the app's popularity has already plummeted, but it's also true that user data collection in mobile applications has been going on for years and is hardly a unique trait to the new category of augmented reality apps.

The Wednesday hearing in whole can be watched at commerce.senate.gov.

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