Virtual Reality or VR has been a dream of many for decades, especially in Hollywood films, and just this year has become a solid reality available to the public.
In 2015 Sony debuted their VR set Morpheus, much to the delight of many. Shortly after this, Facebook acquired Oculus VR for $2.3 billion, cementing the seriousness of VR in many industries. Unlike the 90s, VR is around to stay and won’t be losing it’s sheen any time soon. Samsung then also created a VR goggle set that is compatible with their Galaxy phones, allowing this technology to be accessible to a much wider range of people. VR is something that will have an impact on many industries outside of the obvious gaming; there are constantly more applications being developed for sports, health care and education. This technology is applicable to many areas of life and no doubt will be.
As previously mentioned, gaming giants Sony already have their own VR headsets compatible with the Playstation4 which are to be released for general sale in October of this year for £350, with an estimated 50 VR games to be available by the end of the year. The Oculus Rift went on pre-order at the end of March this year but the company have already faced problems due to receiving too many pre-orders, setting back the date that customers would actually receive their headset. Other VR offers are coming in from HTC, Sulon Q, Samsung, LG and Google as well as an augmented reality set coming in from Microsoft.
Many predictions for sales of the headsets and games are showing millions of units sold; Deloitte have predicted that 2.5 million headsets will be sold this year as well at 10 million games, with CCS Insight predicting this figure to rise to 24 million for headsets in 2018. Gaming is currently a main driver for the development and adoption of VR but entertainment such as video and user specific content will also lead to larger and wider audiences.
However, despite their popularity there is a slightly darker side to the regular use of a VR headset. Physically it can create motion sickness due to a shift in perception which affects balance which is referred to as ‘cyber sickness’. In the disclaimer for the Samsung Gear VR, they warn to stop using the headset immediately if they “experience seizures, loss of awareness, eye strain, nausea or any symptoms similar to motion sickness”. In addition, the device is not recommended for children younger than 13. They also state that “Prolonged use should be avoided, as this could negatively impact hand-eye coordination, balance and multitasking ability,” the lengthy disclaimer warns.
According to Live Science, Mayank Mehta, a neuroscientist at UCLA has stated scientists “don’t really know what’s going on” in terms of how being in a virtual reality can affect the brain. Their studies have found that using VR can actually cause parts of a rats brain to shut off completely while making others behave abnormally. This is because the part of any animal’s brain that is designed to keep track of their location is so finely tuned that it expects everything to be in sync – which when in virtual reality it isn’t.
Mehta went on to say that they are unaware of the long term consequences and the impact this can actually have on health, and that more research needs to be done as the products become more widely available and millions of people are spending multiple hours a day using them.
While VR is certainly an incredibly exciting development, especially in the gaming world, there is more research that needs to be done on how this physically and psychologically can affect frequent users.