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Study finds eyesight worse with Tablet use vs. VR headsets among Children

Parents of young children are often concerned about too much TV, tablet or phone use and more recently, too much VR.

Even the VR companies are taking a cautionary approach to age guidelines. Brendan Iribe of Facebook owned Oculus spoke about the 13+ age rating at the launch of the Oculus Rift headset:

"We put a warning on right when you put it on, and the age of 13 was something that made a lot of sense when we became a part of Facebook, their age is 13 as well. And so we just felt ‘let’s start at 13, let’s evolve the technology more, let’s build more confidence, in the health and safety side of it. And eventually, one day, we want to have Oculus for kids, especially for all the educational use of this."

Age guidelines for VR headsets

The age guidelines for the top VR headsets are:

  • Oculus Rift and Gear VR is 13+
  • Google Daydream recommends 13+
  • PlayStation VR PSVR is 12+

HTC Vive does not have any official age guidelines. Their guide states:

The product was not designed to be used by children. Do not leave the product within reach of young children or allow them to use or play with it. They could hurt themselves or others, or could accidentally damage the product.
The product may contain small parts with sharp edges that may cause an injury or which could become detached and create a choking hazard for young children. Consult your doctor immediately if any parts of the product or accessories are swallowed.
If older children are permitted to use the product, then adults should monitor them closely for any negative effects during and after their use of the product. Do not allow older children to use the product if negative effects are observed. Adults should also ensure that older children avoid prolonged use of the product.

I am sure there are lots of children under 12 or 13 out there using VR. Especially the likes of the more accessible Gear VR.

VR Study in young children

The Beijing Advanced Innovation Center for Future Visual Entertainment recently collaborated with multiple organizations, including the Beijing Institute of Technology, on a study to understand the impact of lengthy VR head-mounted display (HMD) use on young users. Elementary school students ages 9-12 were recruited for an on-campus VR experience event. The experiment was with an HTC Vive headset.

The preliminary results show that VR HMDs have the potential to positively impact eyesight in young users.

The experiment tested vision before and after tablet use and then before and after VR use. The results are certainly impressive and favorable to VR.

VR eye testing

According to the experimental data following one hour of tablet use, the eyesight of young users did not recover after a period of 20 minutes of rest. Meanwhile, young users who spent the same amount of time using a VR HMD saw stable or even improved eyesight.

VR eye test changes in vision

The experiment showed that properly designed virtual image distance and high-performance system that is of equal quality to Vive can even correct vision. The data shows that VR devices can quickly impact young users with myopia and/or hyperopia. The measured virtual image distance of the HTC Vive during this experiment was 1.7 meters, which is 0.3-0.45 meters farther than the students’ focal length when using a tablet.

The research concluded most subjects who use VR HMD for less than 1-hour show unchanged or even improved vision. As usual with most good things in life, moderation is key to good health.