AR and VR - Risks/Concerns
Current concerns regarding the use of VR and AR technologies include the misuse of tracking data from individuals' recorded movements and several health effects caused by the prolonged use of VR and AR headsets. More information about these insights is provided below.
VR and AR Tracking Data
- Because of individuals' unique movement patterns, such as "gaze, head direction, hand position, and height," which are collected through VR headsets, it is very difficult to anonymize VR and AR tracking data.
- According to researchers, people can be recognized "with 8 to 12 times better accuracy than chance" through VR and AR. In a study, individuals were identified with 90% accuracy.
- VR and AR tracking data could be used to identify or trace an individual and currently, data collected by VR technologies is not regulated, and its collection, usage, or sharing information "is not monitored by any external entity."
- The misuse of VR and AR data could cause people to "lose control of their identity" and children could also become vulnerable, as they may be tracked while using this technology. According to Rori Duboff from Accenture Interactive, "Most people are not even aware that when you turn on the phone and give it camera permission, and it's putting something over them or their kids — that's AR."
- Another danger of movement and identity tracking is the creation of digital replicas. Through the tracking sensors of VR and AR systems, identity fakes could get more real and convincing, as the recorded movement of an individual can be used to create digital imitations of people.
Health Effects Caused by Prolonged Use of the Technology
- Industry safety experts are becoming concerned about the prolonged use of AR and VR headsets. These risks may include headaches or neck strains caused by the weight of the headsets, or harmful radiation to the eyes.
- According to Ibrahim Jilani, UL's director of consumer technology, UL spent about a year "speaking with a broad range of stakeholders, including regulators and spatial ware developers and manufacturers, to better understand the unique risks associated with AR/VR/MR devices." These discussions led the company to believe that a new standard is needed to cover the safety risks associated with AR and VR technology.
- VR users are reporting symptoms such as "headaches, eye strain, dizziness, and nausea" after using the headsets. It is believed that these symptoms are caused by the focus of the eyes on objects that are apparently in the distance but are actually on a screen close to the eyes. This effect is called vergence-accommodation conflict, which is being investigated "for its long-term effects, especially among children."
- A recent study by Leeds University suggests that only 20 minutes of exposure to VR can "affect the ability of some children to discern the distance to objects."
- VR has also raised concern about the acceleration of myopia, or shortsightedness, which is expected to affect over 33% of people globally by 2020.
- According to research from Oregon State University, VR technology could also cause "muscle strain and injury" in the neck and shoulders. Researchers observed that after only three minutes of VR use, individuals presented persistent discomfort in the shoulders, which suggests that prolonged use of this technology can lead to serious complications like gorilla arm syndrome, rotator cuff injuries, neck strain, and damage in the cervical spine.