The world of recreational technology is advancing quicker than anyone twenty years ago would have predicted. It feels like every other year there is a major breakthrough that opens the way for more possibilities.
Recently VR, virtual reality, has been that one aspect that is getting impressively advanced. I remember when it was nothing but a headset with minimal tracking and choppy, horribly tracked hands. The game library was very limited and it was more of a novelty gimmick with potential instead of a meaningful gaming device.
However, while the VR headsets have come a long way and changed, there is still one very prevalent thought and worry amongst users, is VR bad for your eyes?
As a kid I was frequently told not to sit so close to the TV because it will damage my eyes, so surely having my eyes no less than 2 inches from the screen should be a horrible idea?
Just to keep everyone up to date and in the loop, it is probably best that you know what VR is before reading anything else.
VR, a shortened way of saying virtual reality, to the outside will look like a big clunky headset that covers your eyes with two weird-looking handheld controllers. It is still relatively early on in its lifetime and how much potential it has so it is not yet lightweight and optimized entirely.
Some brands such as oculus have gotten their devices to look nice and be relatively lightweight, the oculus quest 2 comes to mind being the lightest VR headset available which is also entirely wireless.
While looking weird from the outside, the person who is wearing all of this technology is probably having the time of their life. VR headsets have two small LCD monitors that show them everything they need to see. The headset acts as a wearable monitor, with the added bonus of having tracking capabilities.
Everything related to VR has tracking, which in the simplest way possible means that if you move something in real life then the character you are playing in the video game will also move. VR is a way of transporting you into the game itself. You are no longer a person in a chair in front of a monitor. You are now the protagonist in a gorgeous virtual world
This is a difficult question for the most part as everyone handles it differently. For instance, some people can jump right into the deep end of VR and be unscathed and enjoy themselves. However, on the other side of this, some people cannot perform even the most basic of tasks in VR as they are prone to bad motion sickness that the virtual environment can trigger.
With that said, people who need glasses or corrective lenses should make sure that they always wear them while playing in VR. Most headsets come with a spacer that you can equip so that your glasses have room in the headset, but if this is still too uncomfortable then contact lenses are probably the way to go.
If you do not wear glasses or contacts, or just suffer from eye strain in general then overuse of the VR headset can lead to eye fatigue. This is when your eyes are overworked and overwhelmed by all of the visual information that is being shown.
It has been said that those with already weak eye movement are likely to experience adverse effects which can lead to eye pain and eye discomfort.
When experiencing any bad effects from VR, the first thing you should do is take a break. Staying hydrated is also important and will help with any eye pain or headaches.
You are most likely experiencing motion sickness or eye pain as your brain cannot process visual stimuli in the virtual world the same way it processes anything in the real world. For this, playing for long periods is bad and will only make it worse. Your eye health is more important than playing for longer. Other than taking breaks and staying hydrated, it is essential you wear corrective lenses if you need them and also focus on a fixed point as that helps.
VR-related eye strain is common as your visual acuity is sometimes worse than it normally is. You are less able to perceive depth while using VR headsets which can confuse your brain and make your eyes work more, which is ocular stress and can lead to muscle twitching and double vision, which is a higher risk in young children who have yet fully developed.
To ensure eye health is as good as it can be, getting regular comprehensive eye examinations by an eyecare professional will help a lot. They will again tell you that any extended periods are bad and that you should limit time spent in VR. They will also help you combat any digital eye strain by seeing if you need to start wearing glasses or contact lenses while playing VR.
You could argue that it is the same as watching tv or playing a video game, but actually being in them. While virtual reality is mostly based around video games and interactive stories, you can still download applications like Netflix and watch them in a VR environment. It can be a tiny bit gimmicky on its own, but when you add friends into the mix, who can watch it with you with their own avatars appearing next to you, it is quite the treat.
Anyways, I digress. The head-mounted display known as a headset has two monitors attached to it that are in roughly the same place as eyes should be. They can be moved a tiny bit to adjust to the natural spacing between your own eyes, which will help make the whole experience more comfortable for you.
The two displays work in tandem to produce a stereoscopic effect that makes it feel more natural to you. The same way that we can use both of our eyes at once instead of always focusing through a singular eye.
Your peripheral vision is thankfully tricked into not stimulating your brain as much. This is done by the surrounding area being black so that your brain can only process the displays, which means it is more likely to immerse you in the experience.
With the displays and the tricked peripheral vision, there is an illusion of depth created which can trick most minds into immersing themselves. It sounds like it would not be as good as it is, but I cannot stress enough how good they actually are.
All VR headsets have a default refresh rate of 90Hz, however, the oculus quest 2 recently had an update that allows you to toggle 120Hz on certain applications. The 90Hz frame rate is not bad, considering nothing is very competitive on the VR and everyone is stuck with the same. If this was PC then a 90Hz refresh rate would be less than ideal, for more on that read our article about Pc refresh rates for gaming.
While it may seem shocking that this is even a point of discussion, but VR actually has some significant benefits to both mental and physical health.
Almost every game that you can play in VR will require some moving around, which immediately means gaming enthusiasts are now standing up and stretching instead of sitting in a chair all day. Alongside this, some games are very intense even when they are not designed to be so. A lot of the games will have you work up a sweat from moving around so much.
Some games in VR are actually designed for fitness and will have you work out and perform physical activities while engaging your brain in something more fun, it’s like working out while playing video games! Perfect, right?
The VR industry is so supportive of this idea that a lot of the headsets will have built-in fitness trackers that allow you to customize how much of a workout you want as your daily goal.
Not only is there a market for physical benefits from VR, but it also helps with the mental health side of things as well. Especially during the COVID pandemic when everyone is shut inside and getting a touch of cabin fever. The VR is great for playing with friends and socializing, and because of how immersive it is your brain feels like it has visited a whole new place which makes the whole ‘stay-at-home’ process a little more bearable.
Speaking personally, I can vouch for both of these. Playing ‘Beatsaber’ was wonderful for my daily workout as it made me work up a sweat in no time, despite being quite healthy. It was fast-paced and insanely fun.
On the mental health side of things, playing online poker with my friends and messing around on various applications made all the difference in the world and improved my general mood.
While there are loads of virtual reality headsets on the market, not all of them are made by the same brand. There are a lot of VR headset manufacturers.
Most VR headset manufacturers will require you to have a powerful gaming pc so that you can play games on it. However, Facebook-owned brand Oculus has a model line called the ‘Oculus Quest’ and the ‘Oculus Quest 2’ which are completely wireless, affordable, and lightweight.
The world of VR gaming is constantly advancing and will only get better and better as time goes on.
If your eyes are already in bad condition from needing glasses or contact lenses, then playing VR without your needed eyewear will not help the condition of your eyes. Also, playing for an extended period will not help even the healthiest of eyes but there is no evidence that VR can cause blindness.
There is no evidence to suggest that VR can damage your brain. Your eyes may become strained if you play it too much, like with any other electronic display, and you may be prone to motion sickness. However, outside of that there is no effect VR can have on your brain.
Quite the contrary, actually. While VR can hurt the eyes or cause motion sickness if you’re not careful, it can do absolute wonders for the mental and physical health aspects of your life. Some games prioritize fitness and will have you working out while playing games.