Virtual reality has negative side effects – new research shows that can be a problem in the workplace
The Research Brief is a short take about interesting academic work.
The big idea
Some employers are excited about swapping out computer monitors for virtual reality headsets, but the side effects of using VR are not completely understood. In a recent study, my colleagues and I propose 90 factors that could influence VR side effects in the workplace. In another study, we suggest guidelines to reduce these negative symptoms.
Our analysis considers over 350 studies to identify a range of VR side effects. Some negative symptoms of VR use – like headaches, tiredness, eyestrain and neck and shoulder pain –are familiar to those workers who sit at a computer all day.
There are many factors that can affect the frequency and severity of these side effects. Some of these characteristics relate to the virtual environment content – for example, how complicated the scene is or the way VR reproduces user movements. Others have more to do with the user, such as age or how long they’re immersed in the VR simulation.
Although more research is needed to identify the exact relationship between side effects and their contributing factors, our study suggests several guidelines to mitigate side effects. Each individual’s risk level is unique, but there are basic things anyone can do, like taking regular breaks, not using VR for more than 30 minutes at a time, and stopping use immediately when any symptoms start.
Nonetheless, several tech giants, like Meta and Microsoft, are promoting VR technology as the future of the workplace. But to safeguard workers, employers need a better understanding of the negative side effects of VR.
More research is needed to improve the quality of evidence. One way to gather more data is to use physiological sensors and machine learning models to detect VR side effects and better link each factor to a given effect.
Although researchers can identify influential factors, we don’t yet fully understand which ones are linked to specific side effects – or how strong those connections are. Researchers believe that some characteristics are connected to several VR side effects, but there’s…