The IRS Is Finally Getting into the Augmented Reality Game and Wants Your Help

The US Department of Treasury isn’t generally known for being on the very edge of technology innovations (see the current hubbub around crypto), instead usually waiting until certain tools have been battle-tested in the mainstream or enterprise sector.

Well, it looks like augmented reality has quietly passed that test as the US Internal Revenue Service is now looking to harness the powers of immersive technology.

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In a new draft request for proposal (RFP) the agency is looking for new tools to utilize AR in order to better carry out its duties when interacting with US citizens.

“A significant portion of the American public accesses information using their mobile device. This Solution Challenge (SC) is focused on utilizing (at least in initial phases) publicly available information to generate improved taxpayer experience when utilizing any mobile device that is directed at IRS images, forms, etc.,” reads part of the explainer detailing the project.

Although the initiative doesn’t go into great detail regarding what the agency is looking for, there are at least some general guidelines that help indicate what the end result may be.

“The solution should generate information which improves the taxpayer experience when any mobile device is directed at IRS images, forms, etc., based on publicly available information,” reads the agency’s documentation. “Additionally, solutions which provide multiple sets of information via a single interface (i.e., augmented reality); for instance, solutions which superimpose computer-generated images of submission instructions, phone numbers, deadlines, translated versions of forms, etc.”

Launched under the Pilot IRS program, which is designed to investigate new technologies for possible use, entrants would be involved in a series of phases which include proof of concept (phase one) and prototyping the AR tool.

The phase one leg of the process will allow for funding of up to $250k. If a proposal reaches the deployment stage, there is an opportunity to receive funding upwards of $7.5 million over time.

We’ve seen this kind of smartphone approach used to service taxpayers from the likes of Intuit and its TurboTax Mobile App (first known, via its optical character recognition feature, as SnapTax). But weaving this kind of functionality into the federal agency’s native apps will be a huge milestone that is yet another indication that AR is indeed the computing interface of the future.

The deadline for proposals is September 7, but the agency is holding a listening session via ZoomGov to provide more information on August 31. If interested, you can register via email here.

Cover image by Patrick Tomasso/Unsplash