As Metaverse and other virtual realities grow, virtual reality glasses are becoming more popular. This gadget is on a trajectory that will redefine our daily lives, just like the internet. But is this new technology harmful to your eyes?
Find out today how virtual reality works and whether it causes problems for your vision.
How does virtual reality work?
Virtual reality has existed since the 1960s. At first, it wasn’t digital, and it was just a change in your viewing experience. It took the form of panoramic paintings, film exhibitions and stereoscopic photographs.
When we now say “virtual reality”, we are talking about a three-dimensional, realistic and interactive world created and experienced using new technologies. Users can explore and interact with this world, deceiving that they are there physically and mentally.
A virtual reality system usually has:
- Goggles similar to a welding visor;
- A computer or smartphone that uses software to generate 3D reality;
- A cable, usually an HDMI or USB-C cable, that connects the glasses to a computer or smartphone;
- A system that monitors head and hand movements, including sensors and tactile feedback.
The main purpose of any VR system is to simulate a virtual and immersive audiovisual experience. Virtual reality glasses have two screens that create a stereoscopic effect that gives users the illusion of depth. The screens are adjusted with autofocus lenses to suit every eye movement or position.
And that’s what worries users: is virtual reality harmful to the eyes?
Possible consequences of virtual reality
Many advances in technology have their downsides – social media is great for communication, but it costs mental health; Cryptocurrency offers opportunities for financial inclusion, but it is harmful to the environment; Virtual reality is no exception.
As most VR users have been using it for a long time, concerns have grown. Some users have even reported adverse reactions after short-term use of VR.
Virtual reality changes our perception of ordinary things, deceiving both our senses and our brains. When the human eye tries to see something, the muscles adjust their position and then focus the lens on the subject.
It helps the brain interpret what they see. In virtual reality, your eyes are always focused on one point, trying to blend in and move away from objects at different distances. When using virtual reality, this difference in eye performance can cause problems.
These issues include:
1. Eye fatigue or eye fatigue
Eye fatigue or fatigue often occurs when using VR goggles. The main reason is the unnatural way the brain processes images. People naturally have a field of view of about 200 degrees, and most VR glasses have a smaller field of view.
In addition, instead of a wide refractive view, the focus is on the pixel screen, which is very close to the eyes. These differences make it difficult for the human eye to locate objects, which puts extra strain on the eyes.
However, eye fatigue is usually not a serious condition and is unlikely to cause permanent damage. The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends taking breaks from your VR session when you begin to experience eye strain.
Your balance is controlled by a system called the vestibular system, a sensory device in your ear that keeps your body balanced. This system achieves this by coordinating various sensory signals, from head movements to eye movements. However, wearing VR goggles can confuse these signs.
VR goggles can make these sensory signals very confusing, such as when your eyes see you shooting but your head stays still. This mismatch in your senses can affect your body’s balance and cause dizziness.
3. Inability to move
Virtual reality can affect your movement in a number of ways, as the brain receives a stimulus that indicates that the body is moving when it is not moving.
For example, a racing game in your VR simulation can make your brain think you are running.
This causes sensory disorientation because your eyes assume that you are running until your body detects this movement. Virtual reality simulations that involve rapid motion or fall can cause even severe motion sickness.
4. Tremor in the eyes or muscles
Prolonged exposure of the eyes to rapid changes in light and movement can damage the eye muscles. In most VR simulations, the lighting and movement change rapidly, so the eye muscles need to adjust just as quickly. Prolonged exposure may cause serious damage to the eye muscles.
Are there any benefits to using virtual reality?
While most VR news has been negative, there are some positive aspects. Among them:
- VR goggles can help people with amblyopia (lazy eyes) improve their visual acuity.
- Virtual reality can help detect eye problems early, especially in children, who can then be treated with glasses.
- This can help improve hand-eye coordination, especially in professions where it is needed.
- It can be a useful eye training tool for people with a perception of depth and low myopia.
Virtual reality is not only harmful, and its creators are making improvements to reduce the negative effects on the eyes. For example, the best VR goggles already have coated lenses that help reduce blue light and reduce eye strain.
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