Optometrists issue eye warning for VR goggles


As interest in VR grows maybe we should look before we leap into virtual worlds and think about our eyes.

While Australians are falling in love with virtual reality, optometrists from health and care company Bupa are warning users to be conscious of the impact the new technology may have on their eyes.

Technology analysts Telsyte1 predict sales of more than 500,000 virtual reality headsets in Australia this year, but Bupa Optical senior optometrist, Karen Makin, said that little is known of the impact virtual reality has on eye sight.

“Virtual reality is wonderful technology and will play a big role in our future, but the reality is that we just don’t know yet what the impact it will have on people’s eyes in the long run,” said Ms Makin, who provides expertise across Bupa’s national network of 37 optical stores.

Instinctively if you asked me is it a good idea to have a screen three or four centimetres from your eyes, my answer would be no.
Karen Makin, Bupa Optical senior optometrist

“It’s a little more complicated than that though in that the difference between using a VR headset and staring at a tablet or smartphone is that the field of depth is arguably more real in virtual reality, meaning that the eyes do operate differently.

“The main area of discussion is related to what is known as the convergence-accommodation reflex. In the real world our eyes focus and converge on the same point, but when using VR while our eyes remain focused at one distance, the convergence of objects changes as they may appear closer or further away and this is where users may experience issues.

“In saying that though, there hasn’t been enough research done to say confidently that they will cause damage or if they can be used without impact to your eyesight.

“It’s worth noting though that leading manufacturers of VR technology state in their guidelines for users to take a 10 to 15 minute break every half hour, even if they don’t feel like it. This is sound advice and allows users to re-immerse themselves back in the real world, reduce eye strain and focus on items both close to them and further away,” Ms Makin said.

While mindful of the impacts of virtual reality on eyesight, Bupa has embraced the innovation of virtual reality to improve delivery of care in other parts of its health business.

Karli Cox, Clinical Manager of the Bupa Aged Care Facility in the Victorian town of Mildura was among the first in Australia to use a program developed by Alzheimer’s Australia that allows carers to experience first-hand what it’s like to live with dementia.

“Our staff have lots of experience working with people who are living with dementia but the insight that will come from this is so unique that it will really support the quality of care we already offer,” Ms Cox said.

1 https://www.telsyte.com.au/announcements/2016/10/13/virtual-realivirtual-reality-set-to-invade