The dangers of virtual or augmented reality: mobility on the Internet

The risks of virtual and augmented reality have recently been studied. What are the differences between these two new forms of reality? Should we take some precautions on these technological developments? Recent ANSES experience is evaluating these questions.

Dangers of virtual and augmented reality

ANSES closely monitors virtual reality and augmented reality, like other new digital technologies, to assess their effects on health in the short, medium and long term. In fact, the dangers of virtual and augmented reality are very real. Recently, ANSES published the results of a new virtual and augmented reality experiment.

To access these new environments, the user can use different devices: helmets, glasses, smartphones, tablets, diving suits, etc. in their professional and personal environment. Several key points emerged from the results of this survey:

  • Men are the first users (57%);
  • the average duration of the session exceeds 1 hour;
  • Users most often come from higher socio-professional groups (43%);
  • The smartphone is the most used computer;
  • The average age of users is 40 years.

Children can also use these two types of reality, usually between the ages of 12 and 13, and children often use them. The dangers of virtual and augmented reality also exist for children.

Virtual reality or augmented reality?

New digital technologies are constantly evolving, with a growing number of applications in everyday life:

  • health and care;
  • training in certain professions (medicine, aviation, etc.);
  • real estate (virtual tour of goods);
  • culture (virtual visit to museums);
  • Security;
  • Interests;
  • etc.

Among these new technologies are virtual reality and augmented reality, two technologies that can be confused. Virtual reality immerses the user in a complete immersion in a virtual world, completely created by the computer. Augmented reality is based on the user’s real environment, but the user can add imaginary elements, for example by setting up the design of the new living room in an existing room.

Some recommendations for use

ANSES is also concerned about the short-term health effects of these two types of reality. Notable but limited and reversible effects were observed: sensory and motor disturbances, nausea, dizziness, sweating, pallor, loss of balance. The signs bring together specialists with a specific name, Electronic Kinetics. Other disorders identified after virtual reality or augmented reality sessions:

  • sleep disorders associated with LED screen light, when sessions are held late in the evening or at night;
  • Epileptic seizures in subjects prone to seizures.

Finally, the medium- and long-term effects need further study, as they are not yet well documented.

Faced with the health risks of virtual and augmented reality, ANSES. formulated Some recommendations for use:

  • interrupt sessions as soon as signs of electronic kinetics appear;
  • Rest for one to two hours after the session;
  • avoid sessions from late afternoon so as not to disturb circadian rhythms and sleep;
  • Limit or avoid sessions for sensitive people (people with epilepsy, pregnant women, people with migraines, or motion sickness).

ANSES also emphasizes the need for better information for users on the health risks associated with virtual or augmented reality.

Estelle B. PhD in Pharmacy

Resources

Virtual reality, augmented reality: what are the risks? What are the best practices to adopt? anses.fr. Accessed June 28, 2021.

Pharmacist
Specialist in medical information and therapeutic education of the patient.
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