Virtual reality has already established itself as a new and exciting entertainment source. Where we used to only have two dimensional screens for video games, we can now be fully immersed in a different reality. Gaming is a great way to use virtual reality, but the platform is growing, and it is becoming much bigger than entertainment. Now, virtual reality is changing the business and education spaces as well, and it’s making them more efficient than ever before.
The technology that virtual reality uses are innovative and exciting, but also fairly new and relatively unknown to many consumers. It doesn’t look like virtual reality will be slowing anytime soon either - by 2030 it is expected to see a 41.6% increase! With more complex virtual reality development well underway, it is a good idea to understand VR and consider the good AND the bad of escaping to virtual reality. Users can use this knowledge to gain confidence in the technology and understand virtual reality just a little bit deeper.
1. The good of escaping to virtual reality
1.1 Gamification in schools, and in the workplace
Virtual reality allows activities that are usually considered “boring” to be gamified. This creates a much more enjoyable experience and facilitates a higher level of engagement. It can also improve outcomes for both businesses and schools when utilized to its fullest potential.
In schools, gamification can improve students’ learning by making learning activities more appealing. Because the learning has been made more enjoyable for them, they are more likely to participate and understand what they are being taught. Virtual reality also allows students to experience what they are learning about, rather than simply reading, or talking about it. For instance, instead of reading about Greece, students can virtually visit Greece! Being fully immersed in an experience not only makes learning more fun, but it also makes it much easier for students to understand the subject material on a deeper level.
For professionals in the workplace, virtual reality can be used to make training not only more enjoyable but also more effective. Imagine medical students being able to practice complex procedures in virtual reality, instead of operating on a real person before being fully capable. Virtual reality is great for many more professions as well and is already furthering the future in many professions!
1.2 Offers new and unique opportunities
Virtual reality is opening doors we didn’t even know we were missing. With virtual reality, users will be able to travel to places they have never seen before, and experience things that they might never get to experience otherwise. Tight budgets won’t stop people from traveling wherever they please, and a fear of heights won’t stop people from skydiving. With more complex virtual reality development well underway, there are no limits to what people will be able to do.
Virtual reality will also allow people to attend live events from home. This includes sports events, concerts, comedy shows, and more! And you can bet you’ll have the best seats in the house, too.
1.3 Provides a safe environment
Another ‘good’ part of escaping to virtual reality is that it provides a safe and secure environment for activities that can be dangerous. This can come in handy when training for a dangerous job, or to teach about emergency preparedness in a class. This can also be utilized recreationally by allowing people to do dangerous activities without the associated risk - such as walking a tight rope above the Grand Canyon! Whether virtual reality is being used for practical reasons or for fun, having a safe and secure environment is priceless.
1.4 Helps fulfill social needs
Virtual reality allows people to socialize similarly to how we socialize with people in the real world, except with virtual reality there is no need to leave your home. This is especially helpful for people whose friends, family, and coworkers may not live close to them. Following the coronavirus pandemic, we know how valuable it is to be able to socialize when it cannot be accomplished in traditional ways.
Virtual reality also allows users to meet new people. Because location does not matter, users will be able to interact with people from all over the world. There will also be a myriad of activities to choose from, allowing users to interact with people who enjoy similar hobbies as them. Virtual reality is an improvement from messaging online as well because users seem more “present” within virtual reality. All these factors can help contribute to a healthy virtual social life.
2. The bad of escaping to virtual reality
While virtual reality can be a great way to fill social needs, it is not always the same as seeing people face to face. When virtual reality completely replaces in person socializing, it can lead to isolation. Isolation has been associated with many negative mental health effects - such as loneliness, depression, and anxiety. Because of this, isolation is one of the biggest downsides to escaping to virtual reality.
Luckily, developers are already taking steps toward making virtual reality a less isolating experience. Features such as allowing friends to watch a movie together at once are already helping to combat isolation. Because virtual reality is fully immersive, there is hope that it can be used to create connections rather than to isolate.
2.2 Can promote escapism
Another negative aspect of escaping to virtual reality is that it can be used to promote escapism, which is a negative way of coping with unhappiness in somebody’s current circumstances. Currently, people mainly use television and video games to escape their reality, but virtual reality could create a much more enticing escape. Escapism has been linked to depression, making this a negative part of escaping to virtual reality.
Because escapism has a negative impact on mental health, it is important for users to be mindful of their consumption. Being able to identify when they are using virtual reality as a means to escape their own life can save them from these poor side effects. Knowing when to seek professional help allows virtual reality to remain a healthy and productive space.
2.3 Negative health effects
Virtual reality has been known to have some potential short-term side effects such as disorientation, dizziness, headaches, and nausea. This is caused by the illusion of objects being far away from you when they are actually mere inches from your eyes. Some researchers have also expressed concern about VR headsets affecting children’s depth perception and spatial awareness. In a study on VR’s effect on children’s spatial awareness, most students were not effected - but for children who already struggled with spatial awareness or balance, it sometimes intensified the symptoms. Experts are also concerned about eye strain and hearing damage caused by virtual reality in all age groups.
Another health and safety concern associated with VR is an increased chance of falling. When users are being active in a virtual world, it can be easy to forget that they exist in the real world too. Falling can cause serious problems, such as brain injury, and broken bones. Users are advised to provide a clean and safe environment when using VR headsets and to remain aware of objects such as ceiling fans and pets.
2.4 Risk of addiction
With internet addiction on the rise since the pandemic, it is definitely a negative risk associated with virtual reality. Internet addiction comes with many negative mental health effects. A study reported that people who have severe internet addiction are 8 times more likely to have depression, and 9 times more likely to have anxiety. Virtual reality addiction is likely to emulate these results.
To avoid addiction, it is important for users to set healthy boundaries with their use of virtual reality. Setting aside specific times for virtual reality and knowing when you have had too much will help to prevent addiction. If a user suspects that they may have an addiction and haven’t been able to scale back their virtual reality use on their own, it may be time to seek professional help.
Everything has its pros and cons, and virtual reality is no different. Especially with virtual reality development still changing and new technology being released all the time, it can be hard to understand the good and the bad of escaping to virtual reality. Using this list will allow you to feel more confident about the positive and negative sides of virtual reality.
Even though the technology is fairly new and can be intimidating, rest assured that it is taking the world in a positive direction. Not only has it changed entertainment, but it is changing work, education, and how we socialize. It is improving systems that are outdated and in need of new technology. Having a comprehensive list of the pros and cons, and knowing what to be aware of, will allow you to be more confident and excited for what virtual reality has to offer.
About the Author: McKenna Andrus
McKenna Andrus is a content writer for Holopundits. She spends her time copywriting, blogging, and upcycling furniture! She currently lives in Utah with her husband, where they enjoy hiking and watching bad TV together.