When it comes to safety in virtual environments, all the rules of real world apply.
Tech giants are going bullish when it comes to R&D and innovation to create products that will help imitate interactions of the real world in the virtual reality. When a person is in virtual reality, he is separate from his actual reality and immersed in an entire different and expectantly out of the word experience. Being in one place physically and in another with mental experience, calls for carefully thought of and effective safety measures.
We can classify safety measures to be taken in virtual reality experiences in below categories –
Health effects of VR gadgets and experiences:
Prolonged used of a virtual reality headset can lead to issues with hand to eye coordination in the real world, after all, the objects that appear in virtual reality are way different that those in real world. One might experience discomfort like dizziness, eye strains, headaches, nausea and other subtle health side-effects while using virtual reality head mounted displays. Anybody who has any stress, anxiety or ailments related to vision should sought medical advice before using a VR gadget. These health side-effects depends from person to person and one must be cautious of their own bodily feelings while using VR gears. Parents must exercise control on time duration of using VR headsets and go as per recommended time by the hardware of software manufacturer.
Physical injuries due to virtual experience:
When people are in a virtual experience, they have a VR gear / head mounted display over their eyes, so they don’t know where they are in the physical world. One must make sure to be in safe virtual environment while using VR gears. Do not use them in public places like parks or public transport. One must take precaution, you can either cause self-injury, hurt others or even lead to damage of property. Even if one is at home, try to be seated in one place unless the VR experience requires you to stand up. Make sure you clear your surroundings of harmful objets that can hurt or make you trip over.
Harassment in a virtual reality
Till now ost of the virtual experiences are individual experiences. If you are in an individual virtual reality experience make sure you are somewhere safe an no anti-social element can take advantage or your eyes being covered. Companies like Facebook are working on collaborative VR experiences as well. For example first with spaces and now with its latest announcement of Facebook Horizon, physical, verbal or visual harassment may happen in these collaborative spaces as well. Bullying may happen too. It becomes important for users to follow code of conduct in virtual experience just like in real world. Facebook has set up a virtual safety centre and is trying to integrate safety measures in the hardwares and softwares it develop.
Safety at VR product development level
At the end of the day, a virtual reality hardware is an electronic gadget using an online software. Unscrupulous elements like hackers couldn’t be more interested to find their way in. It is important to have user’s own and data privacy maintained here as well. Apart from data safety, the manufacturers and developers need to be careful to provide usage guides to users, use quality components to minimise health side-effects, make sure that the experiences that require movement, do not require drastic movements around in a space that may hurt users etc.
In virtual reality, with the developments and consumer experiences we have, maybe today, we have to deal with smaller safety concerns, but with the rapid pace of development we are moving, sooner or later, this topic will become of utmost importance.