As virtual reality in video gaming becomes more sophisticated, one Clemson researcher is warning that some side effects may appear in the coming years.
Psychology professor Eric Muth has spent 14 years looking at how virtual reality can affect the body, especially when a person watches it through a helmet. Before coming to Clemson 11 years ago, Muth served in the Navy as an experimental psychologist who studied how soldiers, sailors, and pilots responded to training and combat.
Now, as the head of Clemson’s Human Factors Institute, he works with helmet-mounted simulators, including those used by the military for training. He says the constantly changing conditions in virtual reality may be a variable that can cause motion sickness and even strokes for some.
He says helmet-mounted displays are mainly used by the military right now, but the technology is now available for regular buyers to use. He adds it’s not for everyone.
If you take virtual reality to the general public, you’re going to expose many, many more people to the technology. When we’ve done studies in the laboratory, we typically don’t study a large group of people and we typically study a target population–like military subjects.
Right now, game consoles that require body movements, such as the Nintendo Wii and Microsoft Kinect, are very popular with customers. Muth says those systems have the potential to eventually move into helmet-mounted displays, but adds few people use helmets now.
I don’t think there’s been an explosion of that technology. The only people that seem to use the technology are people that are real high-end gamers, really looking for a different experience.
Muth says more research needs to be done, especially to see how different ages are affected by the helmets. As an example, he cites very few studies have been conducted to examine how those over 50 respond to virtual reality systems.