Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) offer plenty of amazing entertainment and educational opportunities, but despite the realistic and immersive depth of virtual worlds that exist in VR and AR, there are some real-world risks to using these technologies.
One of the most widespread examples of the risks presented by virtual games and experiences came about after Pokemon Go was released in the summer of 2016. While it was not as immersive as full virtual reality, this AR game still managed to cause plenty of injuries, as people were so focused on the game that they weren’t paying attention to their surroundings. Multiple car accidents, injuries like twisted ankles and bruised shins, and even robberies were reported as a result of people being too focused on the game.
As VR becomes more common, thanks to new and more affordable headsets entering the market, it’s important to understand why VR is bad if it’s not used carefully. Understanding the downsides and risks associated with this technology is important for both creators and users to help determine the suitability of the software for each individual user.
There are plenty of real consequences and risks associated with using VR technology that has even some designers of VR hardware and apps worrying about users. Since these games are so immersive and the user’s visual range is completely blocked by the headset, there is plenty of risk of physical injury, since you can’t see your real-life surroundings.
VR designers are constantly looking at the latest research and working to minimize the potential for physical and psychological damage caused by virtual experiences. Since these games and activities can feel so incredibly real due to the level of immersion they offer, there is a real risk that people may be negatively affected psychologically by what they witness. For instance, many horror games have been developed for VR, but while horror fans may relish the opportunity to live out a scary story, designers are worried about PTSD-like effects from these games long after the game is over.
There is also the question of whether or not VR headsets are safe for children and teenagers. These systems are created for adults who have fully developed brains and eyes, and there’s very little consensus on whether or not children should be allowed to use them. The technology is still relatively new, and very few studies have been done on the long-term effects of VR on children’s brains, but there is a legitimate fear that kids who play VR games may struggle to discern the difference between fantasy and reality.
Since a VR headset covers the eyes, users may fall, trip over or bump into objects, or lose their balance because they can’t see their real-world environment. Users may also experience eye strain, which can lead to headaches. People who use VR headsets should first make sure that their play area is free of potential hazards. They should also reduce the amount of time they play to limit eye strain.
Motion sickness is one of the leading issues that users experience while using VR due to its realistic simulated motion. When what your eyes and ears tell you doesn’t match up with the motion of the rest of your body, it can induce wooziness.
Overstimulation, panic attacks, addiction, and a strong sense of fear and anxiety stemming from especially violent games can come about due to the fact that these virtual environments feel real.
Privacy is a particular concern for users of Oculus headsets, since Oculus is owned by Facebook and these products require a Facebook login to work. There are still a lot of questions floating around about the potential for security breaches, ransomware, and identity-related scams that have some people questioning whether or not these consoles are safe to use.