Experts warn over virtual reality headsets

(3 News)
(3 News)

The growing use of virtual reality headsets could be bad for eyes, with eye experts warning it could be making us short-sighted.

Avid gamer Ross McDougall likes to lose himself in virtual worlds, but it's not without side effects.

"The biggest detractor from a physical perspective is having a first-person experience and your eyes telling you one thing but your body is sitting down. That conflict your brain doesn't handle very well, [and] that's where most people start to feel nauseous," he says.

Virtual reality gamers wear a headset, which creates what appears to be life-sized, 3D virtual environment, and Mr McDougall agrees it's not great for eyes.

Short-term effects include seeing double and blurred vision, but Auckland optometrist Alan Sak is worried about the long-term damage.

"Myopia progression is one risk; exposure to blue light is another risk, potential degeneration of the retina and long-term sight threatening risks," he says.

Senior ophthalmic surgeon Professor Charles McGhee agrees that myopia, or short-sightedness, could be an issue.

"Pathologists who used to look down a microscope all day long at pathology tissues, many of them became myopic.

"If we look in the educational system, many times if you get people spending a lot of time looking at computers or books, there's evidence that if you have predisposition to short-sightedness you become short-sighted."

At the world's largest gaming expo, E3, this year, all the big tech players focused on virtual reality.

Ben Carmichael says virtual reality will take off over the next year as it becomes a consumer-based product.

Within three years, the global virtual reality industry is set to be worth more than $5.8 billion.

There's no shortage of people wanting to swap the real world for a virtual one, but the key could be moderation.

Professor McGhee says spending extended periods in a virtual reality environment won't be good for anyone's eyesight.

"It certainly won't be good for your general development."

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