Do VR Headsets Pose a Threat To Our Health?
Virtual reality is just about to hit the mainstream with the launch of the affordable PlayStation VR headset and a range of other high-end alternatives, and it appears that the new tech will usher in a new era for the gaming industry as a whole; but how safe are they?
Technology has always been associated with health risks. For example, individuals are urged to take a break from playing video games for ten minutes every hour to prevent eyestrain, repetitive motion injuries, and other potential side effects, while cellphone signals have been linked with harmful radiation. VR headsets are set to bring a new wave of health concerns, and it is understandable that potential buyers are curious and worried about any risks that could have a long-term impact on their health.
Focused UV light from VR headset usage can cause a small source of light to enter the eye. Some studies have said that this may cause minor damage when the source is within 1mm and that it could be a potential cause for eye cancer, though further research is required to determine this. Young children are more susceptible to this damage as they have underdeveloped eyes. If you do suffer eye damage when using a VR headset, then you could opt for laser eye surgery to correct any problems.
VR users may suffer from simulator sickness due to the combination of head motion, physical positioning, and the conflict between the virtual image and visual image. This disconnect can confuse the brain and lead to feelings of nausea and sickness. However, manufacturers are working diligently to prevent this from happening, and users that get motion sickness easily will obviously feel the effects more.
Poor stereoscopic rendering in 3D content is another potential risk to users as it can cause eye strain. This often occurs when a developer has not tested their app or game correctly, and the increasing popularity of VR could lead to simple solutions such as offering easy adjustment for users and the introduction of strict approval requirements. It is also important that you take the time to configure the VR headset properly before using it.
Studies and research
Possible side effects, including nausea, dizziness, seizures, and hand-eye coordination problems, are currently believed to be temporary and not long term, according to experts and scientists. There have also been suggestions that the many potential side effects listed for devices such as the Oculus Rift are purely due to enterprises being cautious and playing it safe. There is likely to be a clearer picture about any problems when gamers have started using VR for longer periods of time.
Chartered Institute of Ergonomics and Human Factors President Sarah Sharples concludes: “Absolutely there are potentially negative effects of using VR. The most important thing that we should do is just to be cautious and sensible. But we shouldn’t let that stop us from taking advantage of the massive potential this technology offers as well.”