The Known & Unknown Risks of Virtual Reality

17 Oct

Virtual Reality (VR) is aptly described as an immersive experience. Many people perhaps don’t know that the very first VR prototype came out in the 1960s. Back then, it was mostly misunderstood and considered a type of science fiction. Nowadays, virtual reality can provide a realistic experience by using software to produce an artificial scene that fully envelopes the senses of sight and sound. The hardware used for sight and sound deliver a 3-D experience that alters as you interact with it.

Currently, VR is making a difference in various industries where it’s used effectively for:

  • Education
  • Entertainment (computer and console games)
  • Health care
  • Transport
  • Science

The Benefits & Convenience of VR

There are many benefits to virtual reality. In fact, these are punted far more than the possible risks. What could be more alluring than being able to submerge yourself in another dimension where everything is artificial but looks and feels real? It’s escapism in its highest form. And it’s not just about escapism; it’s also experiential.

VR can bring a world of convenience to many people. The elderly person unable to travel – VR can provide a full tour experience in real-time. The disabled child who is unable to go on a field trip or participate in sport – VR can make it possible for said disabled child to do both, without having to get out of their seat. The student who is unable to travel into varsity for a day, or without the budget for transport – can now attend VR classes from home or a nearby Internet café. The immersive technology of VR can help people to overcome fears and phobias as they experience their fears in the controlled environment of VR. Yes, the benefits and conveniences are well documented, but what are the risks?

Risks of VR

  • Possible risk of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)

Because VR is so immersive, it can cause distress on the brain and emotions. Consider the teenager who gets his hands on virtual reality hardware and software to play the latest console game or movie, where the bloodshed and tragedy reach new (modern accepted) levels. Now, instead of being on the outside of the situation, watching all of this unfold on a screen in front of him, he is right in the middle of the action. The trauma is happening virtually, all around him. Some websites suggest guidelines for developers to follow when creating VR content, but the risk of PTSD still exists.

  • Compromise of Human Relationships

When students choose to attend VR classes rather than attending lectures, and people become addicted to VR console games, it puts the authenticity of human relationships and connections at risk. As people start to immerse themselves more and more into virtual reality, they begin to experience a “disconnect” with those around them.

  • Health Risks of Virtual Reality

There are several health risks and issues associated with virtual reality. Of course, these don’t affect everyone, but there are records of it. These include:

  • Nausea and dizziness
  • Anxiety
  • Eyestrain
  • Possible radiation exposure

Is Virtual Reality a Risk to You?

The variations of VR hardware and software coming onto the market are complicated. If used incorrectly or by the wrong person, they can put themselves at risk or trauma, anxiety and even health concerns. It is important to ensure that you are aware of both the benefits and risks of using Virtual Reality so that you can do so responsibly.

What is your experience with Virtual Reality? Have you tried it out and have you ever considered that you could be at risk? We’d like to know what you think.

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