VR Headsets Could Cause Some Damage

Many are planning on picking up the PlayStation VR (PSVR) when it launches next month. With more than 40 million PlayStation 4’s sold, many are predicting the PSVR to be an instant hit and make virtual reality truly mainstream. Yet, while everyone is chomping at the bit to get their hands on a unit at launch, experts are warning that VR headsets, and yes even the PSVR, could lead to long-term eye damage and could have you barfing your brains out.

playstation vr, sony at e3 2016

Leading laser eye surgeon Dr David Allamby, clinical director of London’s Focus clinic, says VR could be setting up a generation of young adults for myopia and agonisingly-painful “dry eye”.

“With virtual reality headsets about to experience a real boom, we are setting up the next generation of gamers for some potentially serious eye problems,” he explains.

“Parents and younger people need to know the risks. With VR, we’re going to potentially see more and more people suffering from a lack of exposure to daylight – something which affects the way our eyes naturally grow and which can lead to short-sightedness, or ‘myopia’. And because VR prevents our eyes from naturally focusing at a far distance, this too can speed-up the progression of myopia.”

Dr Allamby added that there are other optical issues that are specific to using VR headsets. “Many VR users have complained about dry eye or eye strain from wearing headsets, a condition exacerbated by the fact that some wearers, when in a stressful situation and immersed in a 3D action environment, simply neglect to blink as often as they should be to really lubricate the eye,” he said.

“And it’s not something to be taken lightly. Over a prolonged period of time, dry eye can lead to extreme pain, with sufferers sometimes describing it as being stabbed in their eyes.”

Other experts have warned about how VR disrupts how our eyes naturally converge and diverge as we focus on objects at different distances.

vr fail feature

Dr Allamby adds: “VR headsets contain two small digital screens, each projected at one eye, creating a stereoscopic effect to create an illusion of depth. The closeness of these to the eyes over intense long periods of use could lead to severe vision strain or neurological issues and needs to be better understood.”

Recent research from the University of California Los Angeles found that, when tested on rats, a virtual experience caused 60% of the brain cells in the Hippocampus region to “shut down”. That’s the part of the brain which maps an individual’s location in space, along with supporting other functions like memory, learning and dreaming.

But it’s not just your eyes which could suffer after a VR session – your stomach could be affected too. Earlier this year, at the E3 Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles, a select band of journalists road-tested the PSVR while playing upcoming horror-survival game Resident Evil 7 . It turned into a PR nightmare for the title’s makers Capcom, however, when a large number of writers began to suffer from “motion sickness”.

So there you have it. Does this impact your decision to pick up a VR headset? Tell us in the comments below.