Are VR Headsets Safe For Your Eyes?
Updated: Jul 11, 2019
I recently had a father reach out to me after watching one of our YouTube videos and I liked his question so much that I wanted to write a follow up article on it.
Here's the question:
I follow your youtube channel and enjoy the videos. Keep up the good work! I have a request for content on your channel. Could you make a video or two about Virtual Reality Headsets and their effects on eyes. I'm interested in your take on them. I have a 9 year old who is interested in VR gaming, but the headset says the minimum age to use is 13. I also read somewhere that children's eyes are not fully developed till they are 11 or so, Could this possibly be the reason for the warning? Anyway, I'd be interested in your take on VR headsets in general and how to mitigate some of the problems they may cause. Please consider this idea for a future video.
Isn't that a great question? Man, there no shortage of ideas for content when you listen to your subscribers. I'm sure there are lots of parents out there with this same question so let's get it answered.
The Growing Popularity of VR Headsets:
Samsung Gear, Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Playstation VR and Google Cardboard are just a few of the popular options you can find in this ever expanding market. It hasn't quite gone mainstream but there's not doubt that Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality are here to stay.
Truth is, the use of VR headsets is so new that there isn't much data on it yet when it comes to the effects it could have on your eyes. The vast majority of the data is around the effects it could have on your brain.
In the Oculus Health and Warnings document the point out the possible effects VR headsets could cause. Dizziness, seizures and anxiety are among the symptoms mentioned. Though this isn't something that most users would expect, it's common enough that it's mentioned as a warning.
Possible Negative Effect On Eye Health:
One thing that would concern me is the effect excessive blue light exposure would have on eyes. Blue light is being studied as a possible cause of sleep disorders and early signs of macular degeneration. Digital devices such as computer screens, tablets and smartphones emit a small amount of High Energy Visible Light (HEV) and that's why we're are starting to see an increase in blue light filtering products.
As a matter of fact, there are a few VR Headsets with Blue Light filters built right into the headset itself. In the video above I put the Destek V4 to the test. Their lenses have an anti-glare coating and the blue light filter didn't create any noticeable color changes.
Related Article: VR Headsets with blue light filter
Reason To Be Alarmed?
This is a tricky subject matter though because most Ophthalmologists I've spoken too aren't convinced that digital devices emit enough HEV light to cause the level of damage that is being speculated. To put things into perspective, you are getting hit with way more HEV light when you're outside on a sunny day than you are by staring at a digital device.
There just isn't any concrete data to show that HEV light is causing lasting damage. Nonetheless, this doesn't mean we shouldn't proceed with caution.
Though the long term damage that HEV light can have on your eye health is still up for debate, there are many studies that show the effects blue light has on our sleeping patterns.
See: Blue light has a dark side by Harvard Health
If you plan on using a VR headset, I would suggest avoiding doing so 2-3 hours before you go to sleep. The light emitted from the headset may stimulate you mind in such a way that would make it harder to fall asleep.
I would hold off on letting kids under the age of 13 use VR headsets regularly. It wouldn't hurt them to try it out for a few minutes every now and then but I wouldn't encourage it for regular use. In a few years there will be more data available but until then I'm going to suggest taking preventive steps.
If you go with Oculus or Sony VR then you're not currently getting a blue light filter built in so you may want to consider wearing protective eyewear. This will be a little uncomfortable for some though. If you get a headset where you are providing the display then either get a headset with blue light filtering built in or put a filter on your phone's screen.
I'm excited to see the new ways manufacturers will utilize VR headsets; the potential is there for this tech to make its way into different markets. As data continues to come in we'll have a better way to approach who should use this and to what extent. Until then, use common sense and trust what your eyes tell you. If they feel tired and strained then you should give it a break.
I hope the information in this article was useful. Please share and comment if you have any questions. Thanks.
Destek V4 VR Headset: http://amzn.to/2GbGqOB
Oculus Rift VR Headset: http://amzn.to/2FLGqkC
Samsung Gear: http://amzn.to/2pejfJv
Blue Light Filtering Glasses: http://amzn.to/2FLLwgM
Here are a few filters you can place on your smartphone:
Blue Light Filter for iPhones
For Models 6 - 8 (Non Plus) http://amzn.to/2ueGYhM
For 6 Plus http://amzn.to/2GgZb3e
For 7/8 plus http://amzn.to/2pwbuiu
For iPhone X http://amzn.to/2Gc6fhr