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September 10, 2017

Is Virtual Reality Safe for Children? (Under 13)

Mark Metry Founder VU Dream
Mark Metry, Founder of VU Dream

Community Questions: You ask the questions, we answer them.

Virtual Reality Kids

Harshal B Kolambe, Game Dev and Tech Evangelist

A general rule all media (3d Games, 3DS, 3D TV’s etc) that manipulates your stereoscopic vision actively (not only HMDs, 3D glasses too) should be absolutely avoided until the age of 6, to avoid eye development problems, but even until the age of 11 you should limit the use to less than a couple hours a day at maximum.
Generally, children should avoid using HMDs that are not properly calibrated to their perspective.
The biggest issue when dealing with children and any Head Mounted Display (HMD), is to take into consideration the Inter-pupillary distance (IPD). Devices like the Oculus and Gear VR have lenses at a set distance and allow for minor tweaks to alleviate variation in IPD. Adult averages usually fall around 63mm however there is quite a variation based on gender, race, and age making these values fluctuate between 48 and 73 mm. In order to accommodate this average, the Samsung GearVR lenses are 63mm apart from center to center.
Most HMD devices on the other hand can be a little more relaxed. I personally feel most 3D content out there often neglects proper setup and the viewing devices often do not allow for good calibration. Because of this I do not recommend long term exposure to 3D content in young children unless using a specifically calibrated device and content.
Still I personally recommend the following while using HMD’s :
If you using VR headset and it hurts you Or say it doesn’t hurt you at all or it does makes or does not makes you sick, I would recommend giving your eyes a rest from time to time. At –least after session of every 30 minutes or so, you should take 5-10 mins gap. As they are forced to focus on a very close area for long periods of time, it’s good to make them focus on something far from time to time. It’ll relax your muscles and help you get used to it as well in the long run.
So as per the Health and Safety message at the launch of Rift applications we should not allow children’s of age below than 12-13 to use VR for more long duration. But its not that bad for children above age 6.
The best practices guide and Health and Safety message was written to best cover the ass of Oculus in the event of a lawsuit. The ages of use by children are not based on extensive lab testing – they’re based on speculation about the worst possible case
Here’s a proper lab study. which Concludes: “… using a stereoscopic three-dimensional system for up to 2 h was acceptable for most of the users regardless of their age.”
Now wait for year and so we’ll have more practical user reviews and lab test about same. There is no magical way to make a limit that will work for all children all the time that Oculus, or Sony, or anyone else can implement. As always, it’s up to parents to be responsible for their children’s activities and experiences as much as they can.

Saugat Manandhar

A part of it is just to cover their ass legally but there is a physical reason why you might want to make sure they have a lot of experience in the outside world first.
One of the way our brain handles 3D is it analyzes the difference in images from both of our eye. How different the image is depends on the distance between your two pupils and varies between individuals. Oculus has a slider for this in the latest model, so it handles for a huge range of face, but it might still be an issue who have a smaller head that is still growing!
There is another 3D cue that’s missing as well, it’s called accomodation. It’s your eye changing it’s focus to look at something closer to you (like a camera). This isn’t replicated in VR yet and fixing it requires quite a jump in screen technology to have mass market appeal:
So naturally, they are being a little wary about this. But imo, just make sure they are doing sports, and as long as they don’t get sick, it should be fine.


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