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Way forward or a health risk: The effects of VR glasses on human health

A decade ago, the issue of ‘cybersickness’ because of presence in the virtual world, would be an unthinkable possibility. But now, it’s an inescapable reality. With virtual glasses opening limitless world and imagination, there are reports of dizziness, headaches, nausea, eye sore, blurred vision and other health concerns. With tech advancements like metaverse creating new teaching, learning, entertainment, business and employment opportunities it’s critical to surmount this obstacle for human progression.

Be it education or medicine, online shopping or watching movies/serials through a Virtual Reality headset, it gives a new horizon to all the advancements technology has been making.

Expert Speak: Understanding cybersickness and what data indicates

A harmful side effect of virtual reality, cybersickness occurs when the human brain finds it difficult to adjust the shift from virtual reality to the physical world. Typically, when the brain becomes used to the immersive digital environment using VR glasses, it loses its sense of spatial awareness which is present in the real world. When these glasses are removed, the brain is still in the virtual world as compared to the body which is in the physical world. The result? Disorientation, imbalance, vision impairment and other symptoms mentioned above.

Two men were reported to fall off a cliff in Encinitas, California as they were too occupied playing Pokemon Go. Other than being addictive and making you feel delusional, prolonged usage of VR Headsets could lead to hearing loss, spread contagious diseases and infections and even cause skin irritation in some cases. VR headsets that get connected with the mobile phones have increased radiation exposure that is a no brainer could affect the human reproductive system, disrupt sleep, or cause mood swings and lead to cancerous growth in body due to overly prolonged exposure.

A recent study in Coburg University in Germany found dismal results. Two of 18 volunteers who spent one full work week in a VR headset version of the metaverse dropped out with cybersickness symptoms on the first day. The remaining 16 said they felt their workload increased 35%, frustration was up 42%, eyestrain almost 50%, and participants’ self-rated workflow went down by 14% and their perceived productivity dropped by 16%.

Similarly, a study from Iowa university had initial results where 150 undergraduate students indicate symptoms do improve with just three 20-minute sessions of VR over a week, but a higher percentage of women and people who are prone to motion sickness have a harder time adapting to cybersickness and different VR environments.

The plus side of VR headsets:
VR in Education

Having a VR set explaining the laws of gravity is way better than the traditional way of teaching, 360 VR a type of VR could make history classes more immersive and interesting. It helps the learner to associate the topic on hand in a much better way as it is a normal tendency of humans to remember the pictures better than words, what could be better than a VR Set to spark the imagination and encourage creative thinking. Stanford University have initiated “Creativity Workout” a course conducted completely in Virtual Reality. Similarly, The University of British Columbia’s Peter A. Allard School of Law is using VR Chats to offer lectures.

VR’s Contribution to Defense Services

Military Simulation and Virtual Training Market size is estimated to grow by USD 6.11 billion from 2021 to 2026 at a CAGR of 7.13%. In a world where defense training is otherwise too expensive or dangerous in the real war-zone scenarios, VR not only offers combat training in various scenarios where user could test the strategy and logic, it’s also helpful in creating simulated trainings for Air force pilots and Navy Officers. Rescue Operations could be synthesized by using VR, so does designing, manufacturing, maintenance and providing VR manuals on how to use the various defense equipment. Medic forces are another major aspect of military, with VR, trainees get almost real environment and work through most effective response that includes battlefield triage, specific trauma treatment, emergency medicine and an aesthesia and tactical rescue procedures.

VR in Healthcare

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is very common these days, 40% of the participants have reportedly admitted that VR therapy helped them improve.

Not just surgery, VR has extended Improvements in Dentistry, Helping Patients with Dementia and Detecting Early Alzheimer’s, people dealing with Stress and Fears and much more. Platforms like SentiAR and Proximie are helping surgeons to scan the body, identify problems, examine on a 360-degree scale, decide on the best process and methods for invasive procedures. Beholder a VR project helps one see the world from the perspective of people with Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and thus develops programs and simulated training that helps them cope better.

Today with VR you could have an immersive experience in almost every aspect of life whether it is painting, exercising, socializing with people through Apps like RECO, watching TV or Netflix, meditating or attending Virtual Live Concerts and shows from the comfort of your home.

The Way Ahead

Virtual Reality is creating new legal questions, but the current Legal system unfortunately only captures Copyright violations, Virtual Data Privacy and Virtual Crimes, there are no set rules or laws that define safe usage of VR. The Legal System has some catching up to do in this department as they should ensure that laws ensuring the user safety are in place in the Virtual World.

VR comes with its own set of drawbacks to health and social wellbeing if not used appropriately. VR Headset designers shall create a design that is able to maintain a large field of view (FoV) for users, they should follow the pattern how human vision works to provide more comfortable VR experience and thus resolve the issue of “Vergence-Convergence Conflict” to reduce eye strain. If not used appropriately this could lead to Myopia as per Professor Martin Banks from University of California, Berkeley. A detailed Product Manual that includes the instructions on usage time, duration of the usage and regular breaks required and possible side effects. Finally it’s the responsibility of the user to use the VR Sets judiciously, follow the usage instruction, take breaks at regular intervals, not using the headsets if they experience any of the side effects mentioned in the User Manual.

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