Episode two of this season’s Black Mirror, ‘Playtest’, sparked the question by many including Tyler Wilde, Executive Editor at PC Gamer, to ask the question, “Is there a line where virtual reality becomes dangerous, and will we stop when we find it?”
I don’t want to be a party pooper, but it appears the VR industry is treating safety as an afterthought rather than addressing it proactively. There is not enough publicly-accessible research in our hands on how VR content definitively affects the brain or body except for the mostly anecdotal comments about cases of nausea and, of course, the spectacle of people falling over wires.
About two years ago, UCLA released research that found our brains do not react to virtual reality in the same way we had thought. “The pattern of activity in a brain region involved in spatial learning in the virtual world is completely different than when it processes activity in the real world,” said Mayank Mehta, the research lead for the study at the UCLA. One of the main takeaways was that these findings should prompt the industry to further investigate and research the effect of VR on neurons.
Fast forward almost two years, and the Guardian publishes an article on the same topic showing that not much seems to have changed. “We haven’t really yet got to the stage where people have been using virtual reality for prolonged periods of time — over, for example, periods of weeks or months — to identify with any clear certainty any long-term effects of virtual reality.” Sarah Sharples, professor of human factors at the University of Nottingham and president of the Chartered Institute of Ergonomics and Human Factors, told the Guardian. Read More…