Virtual reality (VR) headsets are becoming the talk of the town, but are VR headsets bad for your eyes? Well, we’ve got mixed opinions on this extremely important topic. Even though VR headsets are popular for providing users with an immersive experience and transporting them to an all-new world, not much is known about the effects of VR on your health, especially eyesight.
In this post, we’ll take you through different opinions on the effect of VR headsets on your eyesight and overall health. By the end of it, you’ll get a clear picture of whether or not you should allow your kids to use the intriguing device. Read further to know more.
How Does VR Work?
Before we deep-dive into the effects of VR headsets on your health, let’s quickly look at an overview of how VR works for a better understanding.
VR headsets track the movements of your head in a three-dimensional space to send you into system-generated simulations of different types of environments, such as riding a rollercoaster, flying with birds, fighting with enemies and so on.
Some of the major players in the VR world right now are HTC, Oculus, Samsung and Sony. Google has also entered the war zone with a cardboard VR headset that can help you make your smartphone your personal VR world.
Are VR Headsets Safe For Children?
You probably already know that the HTC Vive VR headset is not designed for children; the Sony Playstation VR is recommended for kids above 12 years; and the Samsung Gear and Oculus Rift VR headsets are recommended for kids above 13 years. But, why these age limits? Does this mean VR headsets are not safe for kids?
According to Stephens Lipsky, a pediatric ophthalmologist, age limitations on VR headsets are related to the VR content and the technology poses no threat to kids. One of the most critical concerns of parents is the impact of VR headsets on the eyesight of their kids. However, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), there’s no study that shows that long exposure to VR headsets can cause eye problems in kids.
4 Potential Health Risks of Overusing VR Headsets
As it is rightly said, everything comes with a limit. And, the same is the case with a VR headset. Even though frequent use of VR headsets is not bad for your eyes, overuse can lead to these 4 potential health risks:
1. Eye Strain
Overuse of VR headsets can lead to eye strain. Your eyes need to continuously adjust to the pixelated VR screen comprising a single refractive optic element. This can result in eye pain and strain. The human eyes typically have a 200-degree field of view (FOV), which can be further broken down into 140-degree binocular vision and 60-degree peripheral vision. Most VR headsets on the market these days come with a 35-degree FOV; so the efforts to accommodate the change in FOV can take a toll on your eyes.
2. Anxiety and Restlessness
The immersive characteristic of VR can induce anxiety and restlessness over a period of continuous usage. Depending on the content you are seeing on your VR headset, VR can lead to an upsurge in emotions. For instance, VR footage of the 9/11 Twin Towers attack can lead to feelings of distress, fear and shock.
If you already suffer from vertigo or claustrophobia, regular use of a VR headset can lead to nausea and uneasiness. The simulated motions in VR can affect your perception of space and time, and induce nausea and vomiting. Per a study conducted by the UCLA Keck Center of Neurophysics, cybersickness was observed in rats subjected to VR. According to the scientists who conducted the study, in 60% of the cases, the neurons in the rats’ bodies completely switched off in VR environments.
4. Exposure to radiation
This point is important for pregnant VR fans. VR headsets can put users at a potential risk of exposure to electromagnetic frequency radiation. Not only this but some VR headsets also use smartphones that emit radiation. Therefore, VR headsets combined with the radiation emitted by the Bluetooth sensors, Wi-Fi networks and smartphones can pose potential health risks to VR users, especially those who are pregnant. Based on a study conducted by the National Toxicology Program (NTP), experiments on mice revealed that subjects continuously exposed to electromagnetic radiation were more susceptible to cancer.
Once again, the 4 potential health risks of VR headsets can only result from overuse (for instance, using your VR headset up to 14 hours every single day). Regular use of your VR headset, say 3-4 hours every day, won’t do any harm.
VR Can Also Benefit Your Eyes – We’re Not Kidding!
Even though we’ve listed 4 potential negative effects of VR headsets above, the advancements in VR technology can make your eyes stronger and vision sharper since they need to constantly adjust to the binocular vision. However, ensure you keep your VR headset and its lenses clean.