Are there any negatives to VR?
DAN STAINES looks at the real risks posed by a virtual future
Donning the goggles and experiencing virtual reality (VR) for the first time is a powerful experience. “It’s different from anything I’ve ever experienced in my life,” said Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg of his first time with the Oculus Rift. Cliff Bleszinski, former design director at Epic Games and godfather of the Unreal engine, described his first time with the Vive headset in breathless, evangelical soundbites. “I was nearly in tears at one point,” he tweeted. “Pure magic. Next level stuff. Mind blown.”
Zuckerberg and Bleszinski talk about VR in terms usually reserved for acid trips and ecstasy highs: an intense and transformative experience, unlike anything else you’ve ever done. But what if the characteristics of VR that make it so seductive and powerful – the sense of presence, of immersion and agency – amplify its potential to cause real psychological harm? We know what regularly getting high on acid or ecstasy will do to someone over the years; the same cannnot be said of regular VR use.
Don’t worry – drug analogy notwithstanding, this isn’t going to be a scare piece. It isn't my goal to frighten you off using VR or to suggest that the technology is inherently destructive. My goal is to inform: to condense what we know about the potential hazards of VR into a digestible format, so that you can make your own decisions about how to approach the technology. Zuckerberg and Bleszinski tell one side of the story; this is the side they haven't told you.