VR May Cause Long Term Negative Effects
Virtual reality is headed towards the mass audiences, but questions remain as to whether or not there are long term side effects.
There are already a few VR headsets on the market and more on the way with Sony’s PlayStation VR headset set to release in October, the impact of these devices on eyesight, the brain and behavior is still yet to be determined.
The Oculus Rift lists a variety of health and safety guidelines that have warnings for potential risks such as seizures, dizziness and nausea for kids using VR for too long.
A lot of side effects are thought to be temporary and not thought to leave lasting damage. However, some long term studies may show differently.
Professor of Optometry at the University of California, Marty Banks, has researched virtual reality and vision. He says that one of the biggest issues is “vergence-accommodation conflict” which is essentially eye strain that is though to be temporary. Banks thinks there may be longer lasting negative effects though. He said, “Everything I have seen suggests it is all short-term and you readjust after you take that headset off. But I think it would be unwise for us to say there is no problem.”
He thinks that the more scary side effects that are noted on the VR headsets are just companies trying to be safe. He says, “I have seen some where they’re really just pretty ridiculous.”
One of the companies offers a warning to women who are pregnant. That’s more so because the companies simply want to play it safe.
A professor of human factors at the University of Nottingham, Sarah Sharples said, “We haven’t really yet got to the stage where people have been using virtual reality for prolonged periods of time – over, for example, periods of weeks or months – to identify with any clear certainty any long-term effects of virtual reality.”
She makes it clear that we just really don’t know yet. She adds, “The key point is : there are effects, but are they detrimental?”
Another concern of some is how VR devices could impact human behavior. The Director for Dedical Virtual Reality at the University of Southern California, Albert “Skip” Rizzo, said, “ “Psychology as a science has been around for 100 years studying how humans behave and interact in the real world. I think we need almost as much time now to study how humans behave and interact in the virtual world and what those implications are. I’m one of the biggest proponents that we can do things in VR that make a positive difference for people in the real world,” he said. “But if you accept that then you have got to accept that maybe this technology could have detrimental effects that are yet to be seen. I don’t think we should be hysterical about it, I think we should have watchful caution.”
As Sharples notes, VR companies are trying to research and figure out any potential problems. But as of now, she thinks people should just use common sense. For example, if you’re not feeling well, take off the headset.
She adds, “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.”