Winston is a VR developer focused on creating immersive storytelling experiences. Contact him on Twitter: @VRHeavenNews
May 6th, 2022
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VR Safety Tips (Handbook Guide)

As VR is getting more popular, so are the likelihood of serious accidents happening. The injuries can be minor (bloody knuckles from hitting the wall) to broken ribs and hospitalization.

VR safety is very easy to overlook. After all, what could go wrong as long as you’re mindful of the environment right?

Unfortunately, that is not the case. Accidents are very easy to happen in VR, because so many things can go wrong whilst you’re immersed in a headset with no vision of the outside world.

VR Safety Handbook

The best way to learn is from example. Here are common mistakes people make which lead to injury:

1. Hitting lights, ceilings and fans

Hold your VR controllers and see if you can reach the fans/ceiling/lights with your arms outstretched.

If you can reach the lights, it’s an accident waiting to happen. We call this “Chekhov’s Light.”

2. Leaning on something in VR

Many people have tried to lean on a table, fence or object in VR which doesn’t exist in real life, which leads to them falling. This can come in many forms, such as a person trying to jump over a fence.

3. Jumping in VR

When someone jumps in VR, they might jump in real life. The app “Richie’s Plank” is notorious for this.

4. Walking in front of someone wearing a VR headset

NEVER walk in front of someone wearing a VR headset without saying anything.

It’s best to approach them from behind and warn them you’re coming.

5. Running into walls or TVs

It’s easy to get too immersed and run into a wall or object in real life. This is especially true for horror games.

6. Throwing stuff in VR

You don’t want to launch your controllers across the room when you try to throw stuff in VR. Wearing controller straps will help prevent this!

7. Audio Too Loud Whilst Wearing Earphones/Headphones

Some headsets have different volumes when you plug in headphones. Be mindful of what the volume is before playing any sound. Sometimes the setting is set to max and might cause hearing damage.

VR Health and Safety Guidelines

  • Ensure there is adequate space in the room for the app you’re using. Most apps can be used with a 2.5 x 2.5 m enclosure.
  • Follow the 20-20-20 rule: Every 20 minutes of using VR, take off your headset and look at something 20 feet (6 meters) away for 20 seconds.
  • Avoid using sharp objects such as knives whilst in VR.
  • If possible, avoid sharp or pointy objects in the environment such as table corners.
  • Make sure cables are not tripping hazards. Use a pulley system if possible.
  • Tighten the headset so it won’t fall off your head.
  • Wear your controller straps.
  • Avoid turning off the guardian system, especially for beginners.
  • Take a break from VR every 30 minutes.
  • If using earphones or headphones, double check the volume before playing anything.

What are the dangers of VR?

The dangers of VR are:

  • Accidents surrounding the environment
  • VR motion sickness
  • RSI (repetitive strain injury especially to the wrists from games like Beat Saber)
  • Sexually explicit content and abusive behaviour
  • Psychological risks such as dissassocitaion from reality.
  • Privacy risks with the in-built cameras, eye tracking, and facial recognition technology.

The true effects of VR on the brain and eyes are currently unknown. Short term studies have deemed it safe, but we won’t know until longitudinal studies are carried out.

Overall

For now, my recommendation is take regular breaks from VR and follow the 20-20-20 rule to keep your eyes healthy.

I’ve been using VR daily for 30-60 minutes for nearly 5 years now. I’ve not noticed any negative impact on my life. In fact – I’ve gotten a lot healthier due to VR fitness. I’ve lost weight, gained muscle and feel better than ever.

If you take regular breaks in VR, I believe there won’t be any harmful long term consequences.

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