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An eye on virtual reality

By Essilor Canada

Point of view: For or against virtual reality?

Point of view: For or against virtual reality?

Point of view: For or against virtual reality?

The question isn't a simple one. Like almost any technological innovation, virtual reality stirs a lot of debate, and in the end, there is no definitive answer. In fact, everything depends on how we use it, and just like any good thing; it is also a question of moderation.

A game ... with consequences

Virtual reality has become a major trend in video games. Just slip on a headset and all of a sudden the universe becomes more real, more immersive. Emotions are intensified. Today, we can even join friends and participate in a collective experience in a parallel world.

Sounds like a tempting experience, doesn't it? However, the use of a virtual reality headset can cause rather distressing side effects: nausea, visual fatigue, and exposure to potentially toxic blue light.

Blue Light

The effects of blue light exposure have been on the radar for a few years now, and for good reason: repeated and prolonged exposure to this light can irreversibly damage the retina by slowly destroying its cells. Blue light is found in the OLED screens that are part of most smart phones, some TV's and almost all virtual reality headsets. Do you remember when your parents used to tell you to move away from the TV screen? When you wear a virtual reality helmet, the field of vision comes right up to the end of your nose, which increases the possible harmful effects. And, just what are those effects? Sleep disorders, diabetes, heart disease, obesity and even a prevalence of certain cancers. Eye diseases including retinal and lens damage, cataracts and age-related macular degeneration, which can lead to blindness, are also noted effects.

Visual Fatigue

Visual fatigue is caused by two factors: looking closely at the object (the screen) and watching the object (which is often in motion) on the screen. The eyes are converging to follow the object in motion, while also accommodating, in order to see clearly. Performing these two tasks at once is not easy for the eyes. But be reassured, there is currently no known long-term effect and the discomfort is only momentary.

Cyber Sickness

Cyber sickness is the most common effect of virtual reality. This phenomenon occurs when the eyes indicate that a person is in a specific spot while the inner ear and the body's muscles (which are both also responsible for helping to situation ourselves in space) indicate that the person is located in another spot. No need to panic! This undesirable effect is not systematic. It is actually mostly associated with adventure games, when the virtual avatar is in motion while the player's body remains in place. The game, Eagle Flight, is a perfect example of this occurrence. The player embodies an eagle that flies through the streets of Paris in order to accomplish missions. For better, or for worse, it might leave your stomach churning!

3 tips to feel as good as possible

→Take 10 to 15 minute breaks for every hour of play, or take a 20-second break every 20 minutes, while looking at an object at least 20 feet away, to limit the risk to your eyes.

→Avoid virtual reality for children under the age of 13.

→Wear glasses that protect against harmful blue light.