How Does A VR Headset Affect Your Eyesight?

Modern digital experiences are characterized by the all encompassing virtual worlds that have been the subject of much media attention. These experiences are delivered through strange looking headsets, which monitor the movement of your head in 3D to send you into a computerized environment. While there, you can do anything from killing monsters in a futuristic fantasy, to learning how to perform brain surgery on a virtual patient.

VR headsets have two tiny LCD monitors, which project at each of your eyes. This produces a stereoscopic effect that gives the user the impression of depth. Because the screens are positioned near to the user’s eyes, some experts and eye care professionals have expressed concerns about kinds of eye conditions that might develop, if users engage in these intense ocular activities for lengthy time periods.

What Issues Are Potentially Linked To VR Headsets?

The issues linked to wearing VR headsets arise from a couple of things, namely: vergence accommodation conflicts and vestibulo ocular reflex. Vergence is a term that describes the movement of the eye’s pupils during focusing that stops us from experiencing double vision. The pupils move away or toward one another, based on whether what we are looking at is nearer or further away. Accommodation is a process where the eye adjusts its’ optical power to sustain a clear view of a moving object. To do this, the lens inside the eye becomes thicker or flatter.

If a VR headset is poorly designed, what the user witnesses will not change smoothly when the user moves their head in sideways direction. This can lead to several undesirable symptoms, such as disorientation and nausea – otherwise known as virtual reality sickness. These symptoms might appear temporarily, once the headset is taken off. Activities like driving a vehicle should be avoided, until these symptoms vanish. However, there is no evidence of any long lasting change to the neurological system.

Humans have developed for these processes to work together. In daily life, you need to be able to see single images clearly. However, while you have a VR headset on, these processes are interrupted. Your eyes might converge close to the screen to look at a simulated image there, however to see that image clearly the eyes have to concentrate on the screen. This causes the undesirable symptoms in some users.

vr headsets

Do They Actually Strengthen The Eyes?

Over the long run though, these headsets are likely to improve the vision of users. Using these headsets has a similar effect on the eyes that lifting weights has on muscles. VR headsets strengthen the eyes, because this is precisely what is done to strengthen the eyes of patients with related conditions. Orthoptics, which is a treatment for sight problems like lazy eyes, movement disorders and squinting, improves the vision of sufferers with vergence accommodation conflicts.

Because the majority of early VR headset environments will be centered on video games, both console and mobile based, children could be potentially most at risk. The market is packed with young people — roughly twenty-six percent of gamers are below the age of eighteen – and tracking, depth perception and focus is still developing in these people. This might mean that children could develop nearsightedness, or myopia, and eye strain. A simple way to counteract this ocular stress is to get your child’s sight tested prior to starting school, encourage twenty second screen breaks every twenty minutes, and make it compulsory for them to take longer screen breaks where they carry out physical activity.

Akthough VR headsets were invent in the sixties, they did not previously experience widespread use, because the old headsets were typically too cumbersome to be worn for long periods. Also, technological restrictions like often caused nausea in wearers. With modern technology though, more responsive, lighter headsets have been created, which are ideal for the mass market.

Many of these headsets have warnings that people under thirteen should not use them, and to avoid further use if the user experiences symptoms such as motion sickness, involuntary movements, eye strain, seizures or twitching. Although these effects are normally temporary, it is not unclear whether VR headsets might cause long term problems to a person’s sight, especially with repeated use.

How Does A VR Headset Affect Your Eyesight? – Final Thoughts

Most of the time, casual users of these devices should not experience any problems. However, until the longer term effects have been properly researched, people should not use these devices too heavily. Also if they encounter eyestrain or headaches, they should stop using them immediately and seek advice from an eye specialist.

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